10/01/2009 12:00AM

Music Note is looking better than ever

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ELMONT, N.Y. - When Music Note finished fifth in her seasonal debut in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps in June, it was fair to wonder whether she was the same filly that had come within a head of being crowned the 3-year-old champion filly of 2008.

When Music Note romped to a 5 1/4-length in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga, it was fair to wonder if she might be better than she was last year.

With that strong race under her belt and with her major competition headed elsewhere, Music Note looms a short-priced favorite to win Saturday's Grade 1 $600,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park. Music Note will face only four rivals in the Beldame, led by the Team Valor International entry of Unbridled Belle, the 2007 Beldame winner, and Captain's Lover. Copper State and With Flying Colors complete the lineup.

Music Note won 4 of 6 starts as a 3-year-old, including the Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Gazelle - all Grade 1 races at Belmont. Her head loss to Proud Spell in the Alabama at Saratoga probably cost her the 3-year-old championship.

This year, Music Note did not get started until the Ogden Phipps, where she made a premature move and backed up to fifth, beaten 10 1/4 lengths.

"We misread her fitness a little bit,'' said Rick Mettee, the New York-based Godolphin assistant trainer. "She needed the race. After that race we had to back off her a little bit due to hind end issues we had to work out.''

Judging by her race in the Ballerina, those issues were indeed worked out. In a race run over an extremely sloppy Saratoga main track, Music Note was into the race immediately, and dueled with Indian Blessing from the half-mile to the three-sixteenths pole before drawing away under mostly a vigorous hand ride from Rajiv Maragh. Now she stretches out from seven to nine furlongs.

"Our filly should be better at nine than she was at seven,'' Mettee said.

With Icon Project opting to skip this race in favor of the Spinster next week at Keeneland, Music Note appears to have little competition in this spot.

Unbridled Belle won this race in 2007, but she comes off a last-place finish in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Unbridled Belle's stablemate Captain's Lover beat grass horses in the off-the-turf Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park in the slop on Aug. 2. A third Pletcher horse, With Flying Colors, finished sixth in the Personal Ensign.