06/18/2005 12:00AM

Odds-on favorites go 1 for 2


Heavy favorites batted .500 in two stakes Saturday that serve as stepping-stones to the premier races of the season at Delaware Park.

Isola Piu Bella, sent off at 1-5 in a field reduced to five older fillies and mares by four scratches, drew off to a two-length victory in the $100,000 Obeah Handicap. The Obeah is the last local prep for the Grade 2, $1 million Delaware Handicap on July 17.

Pleasant Chimes, no better than third in three previous stakes appearances, ran down the 2-5 favorite, Dance Away Capote, in the final furlong to prevail by a length in the $170,800 Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup for 3-year-old fillies. The Susan's Girl is the prep for the Grade 2, $500,000 Delaware Oaks on July 16.

Isola Piu Bella, based in New York with Todd Pletcher, has now won 3 of 5 starts since coming to the United States from Chile, where she won two Group 1 races at the Delaware Handicap distance of 1 1/4 miles.

Isola Piu Bella covered 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:53.30. City Fire nosed out Becky in Pink for third.

Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Isola Piu Bella ($2.40) sat patiently on the rail in fourth for much of the race.

"When it was time to go, I angled three wide around the turn and she really took off on her own," Dominguez said. "Based off of her performance today, she should not have a problem with the mile and a quarter in this country."

In the Susan's Girl, Pleasant Chimes ($9.60), ridden by Pablo Fragoso, swung outside on the turn and overtook Dance Away Capote inside the eighth pole to earn her third win in six starts. Capitulation finished third at 13-1, 1 1/4 lengths behind Dance Away Capote. The final time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:47.76.

According to trainer H. Graham Motion, the slow early fractions of 51.22 seconds and 1:15.97 compromised Dance Away Capote's chances.

"Her game is to lay off of the pace and make a run," he said. "With the pace that they ran, Ramon had her in a good spot. Ramon said [Pleasant Chimes] came running to her and he was surprised when she ran by her. But she was taken out of her game because she was forced to lay closer to the pace. I'm disappointed we lost, but I am not discouraged. Hopefully, in the Oaks she will get a pace that is more suited to her style."

Pleasant Chimes had been competitive in three consecutive Grade 2 stakes, but was plagued by bad racing luck in her last two starts. She stumbled at the start of the Comely at Aqueduct and had to steady with 4 1/2 furlongs remaining in the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico.