01/09/2009 12:00AM

No clear-cut choice in Busanda


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - From a betting perspective, the first three stakes run at Aqueduct in 2009 have been rather boring with odds-on favorites Zada Belle (1-2), Haynesfield (1-2), and Justwhistledixie (2-5) living up to expectations.

Saturday's $65,000 Busanda Stakes looks to be more challenging with nary an odds-on favorite in sight among the nine 3-year-old fillies set to run a mile and 70 yards over the inner track.

Based on her solid debut, strong pedigree, and hot connections, Flashing could go favored despite having run just once and never around two turns. Those seeking more value, though, have plenty of alternatives.

Southern Charmer was beaten a neck at 3-5 by fellow Busanda starter Missunitednations in a first-level allowance race at a mile and 70 yards here on Dec. 12. Southern Charmer lugged in a step in upper stretch and then was carried out several paths by Missunitednations in deep stretch. A foul claim lodged by Southern Charmer's jockey, Alan Garcia, was disallowed.

Seth Benzel, the trainer of Southern Charmer, is adding short-cup blinkers to the filly's equipment on Saturday.

"We're not looking for a huge change, we just want to center her attention and hopefully be in a position easily without the jock having to do too much and then hopefully she gives the same kind of kick she gave last time," Benzel said.

Gary Contessa goes for his third Busanda trophy in the last four years with Chocolate Pop, who attempts two turns for the first time. She won a seven-furlong maiden race over the main track on Nov. 16, then came back 12 days later to run second to Justwhistledixie in the Love Affair Stakes, also at seven furlongs.

Contessa said Chocolate Pop acts like she will go two turns, though admits her pedigree - she's a daughter of Cuvee - indicates otherwise.

"If you look really hard at her pedigree you say there's a one-turn seven-eighths or a mile pedigree if ever I saw it," he said. "I think from being around her that she will go two turns, but horses like her in the past have made a liar out of me. So I'm going to be as anxious as anybody that's betting on her."

Don't Forget Gil, who won the East View against New York-breds last out, meets open company for the first time. Fitz Just Right is 2 for 2 in key out-of-town races. Our Khrysty is 3 for 3 on dirt. Pumpkin Shell comes of a sharp maiden win going 1 1/16 miles here on Dec. 4.