02/19/2002 1:00AM

Take the Cake ready to try two turns


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Belterra may have gotten most of the headlines and attention in trainer Carl Nafzger's barn last year after winning all three of her starts. But she wasn't the only undefeated 2-year-old filly under Nafzger's shed in 2001.

Take the Cake also had an unblemished record at 2. And while the more heralded Belterra continues to work for her 3-year-old debut, Take the Cake has already made a name for herself this winter, upsetting A New Twist to capture the Grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes.

On Saturday, * stretches out around two turns for the first time in the Grade 3 Davona Dale Stakes.

Take the Cake had her final major tuneup for the 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale on Tuesday, working five furlongs in 1:00 under assistant trainer Rose Churchill. It was the fastest of 35 works at the distance on Tuesday's tab.

"She really worked well and is doing great," said assistant trainer Ian Wilkes. "Obviously the main question is whether she can go two turns, but this is certainly a good spot and the ideal time to find out. She also really likes this track, and speed does seem to carry a little further here than on other tracks."

The Davona Dale is commonly used as a prep for this meet's cornerstone event for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes on March 15. But Wilkes said no decision has been made on Take the Cake's Bonnie Miss status, and Nafzger has already said the Bonnie Miss would be Belterra's main goal this winter.

A small field is shaping up for the Davona Dale. Along with Take the Cake it also figures to include Aly Quatorze, Blissful Kiss, and Smok'n Frolic.

Smok' n Frolic, who will make her 3-year-old debut in the Davona Dale after closing out her 2-year-old campaign with a pair of graded wins for trainer Todd Pletcher, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Tuesday.

Balto Star looking to bounce back

Another of Pletcher's arsenal of stakes winners to work on Tuesday was Balto Star, who breezed a half-mile in 48.80.

* shipped here from New York after finishing fifth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 19. He is among the nominees for Saturday's $150,000 Canadian Turf Handicap, but Pletcher said he's more likely to run in the Grade 3 Creme Fraiche Handicap on March 10.

"He's always been a good work horse, so it's hard to get a line on him off his work," said Pletcher. "He didn't fire much last time in New York and I really don't have a good explanation for what happened. But when he's on his game he's as good as anybody. He's really run some exceptional races."

Balto Star won the Grade 2 Spiral and Grade 2 Arkansas Derby, but tired badly in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont. He was an easy winner of his turf debut three months after the Belmont. In the Breeders' Cup Mile, he faded to 12th.

"Obviously he's okay on turf, too, and we're going to be liberal where we nominate him," said Pletcher. "Right now the Creme Fraiche is the goal, but that's not etched in stone either."

Plans for Cetewayo

Dr. John Chandler, who owns Cetewayo, winner of last Saturday's Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap, said the 8-year-old turf specialist might come back in the Grade 2 Pan American Handicap here on March 23.

"Right now we're between the Pan American and Keeneland's Elkhorn Handicap," said Chandler, who also bred Cetewayo. "After that there aren't very many mile and one-half races."

Cetewayo rallied to an easy victory in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup for his first Grade 1 victory since he captured Saratoga's Sword Dancer Handicap in August 1998.

Prado, Mott lead standings

After 41 days of racing, Edgar Prado holds a 43-39 lead over John Velazquez in the battle for leading jockey honors. Jorge Chavez snapped a third-place tie with Cornelio Velasquez after winning Monday's late double aboard Bold World in the eighth race, the Dame Mysterieuse Stakes, and Clever Louis in the ninth.

Bill Mott holds a 14-12 lead over Mark Hennig and John Kimmel in the trainer standings, with Nick Zito another victory back in fourth spot.

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