01/10/2002 1:00AM

Spinelessjellyfish and Echo Eddie to meet at last


ARCADIA, Calif. - Spinelessjellyfish and Echo Eddie have much in common. Together, they have won the last two runnings of the Sensational Star Handicap at Santa Anita. Both are lightly raced and have outstanding records, particularly against statebreds.

On Saturday, they meet for the first time, in the $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap for California-breds on the hillside turf course. With distinctive styles - Echo Eddie as a pacesetter, and Spinelessjellyfish as a stalker - they are both capable of winning against five others.

But both raise questions.

Echo Eddie has not started since April 15, a layoff caused by surgery to remove a bone chip from a knee. To his credit, he has run well off a break in the past.

Spinelessjellyfish was best around two turns in 2001, winning two stakes and finishing second by a head in the California Cup Mile on Nov. 3, his most recent start.

In the Sensational Star, Spinelessjellyfish turns back to about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf. Trained by Jenine Sahadi, Spinelessjellyfish is the 122-pound highweight and will be ridden by his regular rider, Chris McCarron.

McCarron has ridden Spinelessjellyfish in seven of his eight wins, including the 2000 Sensational Star Handicap and the last two runnings of the Khaled Stakes at Hollywood Park.

"He's got his favorite rider on his back," Sahadi said. "If he's too fresh, Chris will have to deal with it, not me. My job is finished except for saddling him."

Spinelessjellyfish may be chasing a fast pace. Echo Eddie, Love that Lion, and Trailthefox should ensure a fast pace among the field of seven. Lesters Boy, who finished second to Spinelessjellyfish in the Khaled Stakes last April, will be close to the front.

"There's some lick in there," Sahadi said.

Echo Eddie is a danger to the favorite. Trained by Darrell Vienna, the 5-year-old Echo Eddie has made just 13 starts, winning seven, including the Valiant Pete Handicap on dirt last April.

"He's a stronger horse since he's come back," Vienna said. "This race will be tough."

Bella Bellucci back in training

Bella Bellucci, who lost for the first time when third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Belmont Park on Oct. 27, has resumed training, according to trainer Neil Drysdale.

Owned by Michael Tabor, Bella Bellucci won a maiden race and the Grade 2 Astarita Breeders' Cup Stakes at Belmont Park.

"She needed a rest," Drysdale said. "We don't have a campaign in mind. She'll start galloping next week."

Nakatani on pair of stakes mounts

Jockey Corey Nakatani will ride only graded stakes from Saturday through Jan. 20 under the terms of a suspension for rough riding in Hong Kong last month. Through Wednesday, Nakatani had struggled in the first two weeks of this meeting, riding just three winners.

This weekend, Nakatani is booked to ride probable favorite Momentum in Saturday's $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes and Tropical Lady in Sunday's $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap.

Trained by Eduardo Inda, Tropical Lady makes her first start in a graded stakes on turf in the United States in the Grade 2 San Gorgonio. In Brazil, Tropical Lady won a Group 3 race over a mile on soft turf.

Most recently, Tropical Lady finished third in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap on dirt at Hollywood Park last month.

"I think she's coming along," Inda said. "I think she can run on both turf and dirt. If one of these days, I get a sloppy track, oh boy!" In the San Gorgonio, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf, Tropical Lady faces Alexine, Built to Last, Dancingonice, Impeachable, Janet, Tout Charmant, and Vencera.

* Inda said Werblin, the impressive winner of an allowance race on Dec. 26, is on schedule for the San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 2. Werblin worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Thursday.