07/09/2010 12:00AM

Northern Belle tries turf again


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The connections of Northern Belle, owner-breeder Martin Cherry and trainer Steve Margolis, had tried several times to get their mare in a turf race, only to have Northern Belle's intended grass debuts get rained onto the main track. Finally, in the March 26 Bienville Stakes at Fair Grounds, Northern Belle was entered in a turf race that actually stayed on turf -- a long wait for a poor result as it turned out. In the Bienville, Northern Belle dueled on a hot pace and faded through the stretch run, but two major factors must to be taken into consideration. First, the race was won by West Ocean, one of the best female turf sprinters in the country. Secondly, Northern Belle couldn't properly breathe that afternoon in New Orleans.

"We scoped her afterward, and she had a little bit of a breathing thing we had to take care of," Margolis said. "So far, so good. She's been hitting the work tab pretty good."

Northern Belle is scheduled to make her first start since the Bienville - and her second start on turf - in the featured sixth race Sunday at Arlington Park. She's one of six horses entered in a five-furlong grass race with a few different allowance conditions and also open to $80,000 claimers. The feature is part of a mini turf festival, with seven of Sunday's nine races carded for grass. Mercifully, there is no rain in the local forecast.

Northern Belle, a stakes winner, has won as many races (5) as any of her opponents, and she has the highest earnings in the field. She is well drawn in post 5, from which jockey James Graham can deploy her early speed in a race lacking much pace. Northern Belle could be a handful -- if she takes to the grass.

"She's got some turf in her family, and she's run well on synthetic before at Keeneland," Margolis said. "She's a filly I think will run on anything."

Northern Belle has two primary rivals Sunday, Dee's Rose and Dashel. Dee's Rose, who won an overnight stakes here last summer. She made her 2010 debut in an Indiana Downs turf sprint last month and closed from seventh on a yielding course to win going away. Despite the stakes win, Dee's Rose was entered under the $80,000 claiming option Sunday, which makes sense given her pedigree and the fact that she has earned less than that amount in each of the last two calendar years.

Dashel also is entered for the $80,000 tag and was in for half that price last time out when she comfortably won an Arlington turf sprint open to second-level allowance horses. The water gets deeper Sunday, but Dashel has started only seven times and may not have hit her ceiling yet.