02/09/2009 12:00AM

Stiffer test for Asbeautifulasyou


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher knows how to pick his spots.

In a rare February appearance at his Belmont Park barn, Pletcher picked one of the nicer mornings of the winter Monday to check in on his relatively small New York stable. Among the 18 or so horses under the shed row is Asbeautifulasyou, for whom Pletcher picked a whale of a spot last month at Laurel Park, where she won a maiden race by 20 1/4 lengths.

Pletcher knows the next spot for Asbeautifulasyou may not be so easy, but still she warrants strong consideration in a first-level optional $75,000 claiming race going a mile Wednesday at Aqueduct. An Irish-bred daughter of A.P. Indy out of the Grade 2-winning and three-time Grade 1 runner-up mare Santa Catarina, Asbeautifulasyou certainly has the pedigree to be special.

But she didn't show much in finishing fourth in her first two starts. That, combined with the inability to find a route race in New York, prompted Pletcher to ship Asbeautifulasyou to Laurel, where she galloped home an easy winner, covering one mile in 1:36.98 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 87. That was her first race with the addition of blinkers, which Pletcher said could have played a role in her turnaround.

"It was an impressive margin, the time was pretty solid, but I'm not convinced it was as spectacular as it looked,'' Pletcher said. "I'll reserve judgment 'til we see the next one. The thing with a-other-thans up here is with the conditions you get a lot of horses with a lot of experience.''

Those type of races on this circuit often include New York-breds that have gone through their statebred conditions. In this particular event, six of Asbeautifulasyou's opponents are New York-breds out of restricted conditions or in for the optional claiming tag of $75,000.

That includes Lights Off Annie, who has won three straight since moving to trainer Bruce Levine's barn, including a blowout 13 1/4-length score going six furlongs. Wednesday, she stretches out around two turns for the first time.

"Each race she's gotten better,'' Levine said. "Whether she wants to go long or not, we'll find out.''

City Spirit, 3 for 5 over the inner track, and My Dinah, second in this condition when running out of her preferred style, are the major threats to the top two.