10/08/2004 11:00PM

Paceless Pebbles wide open


ELMONT, N.Y. - , separated by a nose when second and third, respectively, in the Lake George Handicap in August, appear the ones to beat in Monday's Grade 3, $100,000 Pebbles Stakes at Belmont Park.

None of the nine 3-year-old fillies entered in the 1 1/8-mile turf race seems anxious to set the early pace, making an already wide-open contest that more difficult to handicap.

On paper, Fortunate Damsel would be the main speed of the Pebbles. But trainer Heriberto Cedano didn't like having Fortunate Damsel on the lead when she finished third in the Lake Placid Handicap on Aug. 22 and is removing the blinkers for this race. Cedano is hoping Fortunate Damsel can be taken off the pace by jockey Javier Castellano and make one run like she did when she won the Fieldy Stakes over this course on July 2.

Phil Johnson trained Fortunate Damsel then. Since Johnson's death in August, Cedano, Johnson's long-time assistant, has taken over as trainer.

"I'm taking the blinkers off because she showed too much speed in Saratoga," Cedano said. "So far she's doing real good and she's going to run good."

Bobby Frankel will seek his third consecutive Pebbles victory when he sends out Venturi. A daughter of Danehill Dancer, Venturi beat colts in a maiden race in Ireland last year where she also won a Group 3 race against fillies. Frankel had her in training last winter in Southern California, but she developed a chip in a knee that required surgery.

Venturi made her first start for Frankel in the Lake George at Saratoga on Aug. 2, where she finished second behind Seducer's Song and a nose in front of Fortunate Damsel. Two starts later, Seducer's Song won the Boiling Springs at Monmouth Park.

Frankel had Venturi entered in the Grade 1 Garden City here in September, but scratched because he feared the turf was too soft.

Delta Sensation won two races from three starts over this course in the spring. Her only loss over the course came when she was beaten 2 1/4 lengths in the Grade 3 Sands Point, a race in which trainer Frank Alexander felt his filly was too far back. She may not have cared for the footing at Saratoga or Monmouth.

The hot-riding Cornelio Velasquez has the call on Delta Sensation from post 5.

Serendipitous comes out of an entry-level allowance win at Saratoga on Aug. 9 and has won off slow paces in the past.

Sabellina, Right This Way, Go Robin, Tigi, and Lenatareese complete the field.