10/11/2006 12:00AM

Patience would take 'Bella' a long way

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Bella Banissa's biggest problem may be her own quickness. Several times in her career, the filly has sped away from her rivals, set a quick pace, and faded through the stretch.

Trainer David Hofmans has tried different distances and surfaces to find the right niche for Bella Banissa, a 4-year-old with 2 wins in 10 starts and earnings of $132,217.

Friday at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, Bella Banissa makes her second start on the hillside turf course in an optional claimer.

In her first start over the course, Bella Banissa finished eighth in the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap in September 2005. She led to early stretch before losing by seven lengths.

In Friday's race, Bella Banissa has drawn the outside post. Hofmans and owner Pete Parrella are hoping that Bella Banissa will take to the course this time.

"This way, she can settle, have a chance to relax, and have a chance to finish," Hofmans said of Bella Banissa's post position. "We're hoping to reserve some of her early speed."

Bella Banissa has started twice this year, finishing third and fifth in optional claimers at Del Mar. In her most recent start, over a mile on turf on Aug. 19, she led by as many as eight lengths midway through the race under apprentice jockey Martin Garcia before fading to lose by 7 1/4 lengths.

"I think she got a little rank with the rider," Hofmans said. "He couldn't get her to relax. She went pretty fast."

While Bella Banissa is proven to be quick, she could have company on the front end Friday. Fan Time, a winner on the hillside course last April, is very quick. She has worked quickly in recent weeks at Santa Anita, including a half-mile in 44.80 seconds last Friday.

If Bella Banissa or Fan Time set a quick pace, the race could set up well for a closer such as Feel Ridge, Niquita, or Sweet Ambition.

Feel Ridge has been second in her last two starts, both routes for claimers. She was claimed in her last start by trainer Mike Puype.

Niquita won an allowance race over a mile on turf at Del Mar last month. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Niquita was second in the 2005 Brazilian 1000 Guineas and Brazilian Oaks, both of which were run over a mile or farther.

Sweet Ambition was a fast-closing second in the Wishing Well Handicap on the hillside turf course last January.