04/25/2008 12:00AM

Tutta Bella needs to ration her speed


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Perhaps the only chance that Tutta Bella has of beating Tiz a Blend in Sunday's $150,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes at Hollywood Park lies within the strategy of the race.

Tutta Bella figures to be in front of Tiz a Blend for most of the 1 1/16-mile turf race. If jockey Garrett Gomez can get Tutta Bella comfortable on the lead, she might be able to hold off prohibitive favorite Tiz a Blend.

Then again, the race could develop into a situation where Tiz a Blend stalks the pace and blows by her five rivals to win her second consecutive stakes. That is the scenario that most bettors will envision for the Fran's Valentine, the first race of the 10-race California Gold Rush program for statebreds.

Tiz a Blend won the Valentine Dancer Handicap for statebreds at Santa Anita in her stakes debut on April 6, rallying from fifth in a field of nine to score by 2 1/2 lengths. Trained by Carla Gaines for breeder Warren Williamson, Tiz a Blend has won two of her last three starts.

Tutta Bella has also won two of her last three starts, winning an optional claimer against statebreds on March 14 and an optional claimer against open company on April 5. Both races were over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita, but trainer John Sadler said he does not feel that the 5-year-old mare is limited by distance. Tutta Bella won a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Del Mar in 2006.

"I'm not worried about the distance," Sadler said. "She doesn't have to be on the lead. We let her be in front last time because that was what was winning at the time down the hill."

Owned by breeder Pamela Ziebarth, Tutta Bella has essentially had two careers. She had one victory in six starts as a 3-year-old in 2006 before being sidelined with an injury that summer.

"She got hurt on the farm after she was injured," Sadler said. "The original injury wasn't 18 months. She's come back good."

Aside from Tiz a Blend, the Fran's Valentine has drawn three other fillies and mares that started in the Valentine Dancer - runner-up Lightmyfirebaby; Swiss Current, who was fifth; and Mood Winner, who finished sixth.

Lightmyfirebaby is the most accomplished filly in the field, having won 5 of 17 starts and $293,546. She has won 3 of 6 this year, including two stakes on the hillside turf course - the Irish O'Brien in March and the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap on April 13. In the Las Cienegas, Lightmyfirebaby finished second to Bahama Mama, who was disqualified for causing interference in early stretch.

Trainer Barry Abrams said earlier this week that there is a chance that Lightmyfirebaby could scratch and be pointed for a summer campaign.