02/22/2008 1:00AM

Three different styles for Contessa trio


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Gary Contessa holds a strong hand Sunday in the $75,000 Busher Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct. The Big A's leading trainer sends out three of the six runners in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Love Co and Deities Day will race as an entry, reducing the betting interests to five. Sweet Vendetta completes the trio that gives Contessa both a numerical and a strategic stranglehold on the race.

"Sweet Vendetta is a midpack closer," Contessa said. "Deities Day is a left-field closer and Love Co is an incredibly fast speed horse. It gives me three interesting options in the race. They have all run good enough to belong in this particular race."

Love Co has run better than good in her last two. The New York-bred has blossomed since tackling two turns, easily winning her maiden against statebreds before delivering a 12 3/4-length romp against open company here in the Glory in Motion Stakes on Feb. 3.

Love Co earned an 81 Beyer Speed Figure in that win, the best number posted by any runner in the race.

Ramon Dominguez, the meet's leading rider, will be aboard for the fourth straight time.

Sweet Vendetta wheels back on short rest, having won her maiden by seven lengths against New York-breds here Feb. 14. With Dominguez committed to Love Co, Channing Hill gets the mount.

The more early pace in the race, the better for Deities Day, who won her maiden at first asking at Belmont Park on Oct. 11 but hasn't come close in three tries since.

She rallied from last in the Glory in Motion to finish a distant third behind Love Co. Mario Pino has the return call.

Of the three challengers trying to derail the Contessa express, Little Belle probably has the best chance. The Darley Stable homebred, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, splashed through the slop to win her maiden in her fourth attempt at Aqueduct on Feb. 1. Rajiv Maragh will again ride.

Darling Monique will represent the Todd Pletcher barn and she could play a major role if she handles the distance. The winner of 2 of 4 races ventures beyond 6 1/2 furlongs for the first time. This will be her second straight stakes, having run third behind Carolyn's Cat, the decisive winner last time out in Aqueduct's T Storm Stakes on Jan. 31.

D J Lightning, pulled up and vanned off from the Busanda Stakes here on Jan. 13, launches a comeback in this spot for trainer Rick Violette.