09/29/2005 11:00PM

Sleeping brings 2 wins into Astarita


ELMONT, N.Y. - Sleeping makes her stakes debut Sunday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Astarita at Belmont Park, and trainer Gary Contessa is brimming with confidence. Sleeping faces five rivals in the 6 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies.

is unbeaten in two starts. She broke sharply in her debut at Saratoga and went on to a front-running victory. Her second start, at Monmouth Park, showed "another dimension," Contessa said.

Bumped at the start, Sleeping got away last in the five-horse field before launching a steady advance under Joe Bravo. The filly drew away to a 2 1/2-length win.

"Joe was absolutely wrapped up on her," Contessa said. "We now know she's not just speed. She's got heart, ability, and guts."

And flexibility to play the game as it comes.

"Now we know we can be on the lead if nobody wants it," Contessa said. "Or we can come from behind. I'm thrilled with the way she's training, and I think she has a big chance."

Bravo, the leading rider at the Monmouth Park meet that ended last weekend, has the return call.

will make her second straight stakes appearance for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

She was a tiring fourth as the 6-5 favorite last time out in the one-mile Kentucky Cup Juvenile Filly Stakes on the all-weather Polytrack surface at Turfway Park on Sept. 17. The new surface might have contributed to the defeat.

"I was talking to Wayne about that," said assistant Peter Hutton, who oversees Lukas's New York division. "Some horses love it. Some horses loathe it. You'd like to say she didn't handle the track, because she's a pretty consistently honest filly."

Prior to the Kentucky race, Fast Deal had two solid efforts at Saratoga: a rallying second and a six-length maiden victory.

With the cutback in distance, Hutton said he feels that Fast Deal "will be extremely competitive in here."

"This is the first time I've been around her." he said. "She's totally professional. She's already been there, seen it, and done it."

Fast Deal galloped a mile Friday. Jerry Bailey will be aboard for the first time in the Astarita.

Todd Pletcher sends out Unobstructed View, who was second to the impressive Keeneland Kat last time out in the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth. John Velazquez has the mount.

Sensation, an impressive winner of her first two races, looks to rebound from a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga.