Bella Bellucci drew off in the stretch to win Sunday's $108,200 Comely Stakes (gr. III) by seven lengths, completing the one-turn mile in 1:35.50 on the fast track. The full sister of Japanese champion 3-year-old Kurofune will make her next start in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), according to trainer Neil Drysdale.
"It was a nice prep. I was very pleased," said Drysdale, who also saddled Wood Memorial third-place finisher Sunday Break at Aqueduct this weekend. "It was just what the doctor ordered. I wanted to give her two comfortable races before the Kentucky Oaks."
The race was carded with seven entrants, but the scratches of Vesta and Fresh Tracks reduced the field to five starters, with Michael Tabor's Bella Bellucci the 3-5 favorite. The daughter of French Deputy waited patiently in fourth early on, before jockey Gary Stevens moved her closer to pacesetter Short Note approaching the turn. Bella Bellucci rallied on the outside as they raced around the turn, then kicked clear of Short Note in the stretch to win impressively.
Short Note finished second, 3 1/2 lengths clear of Nonsuch Bay, with Spring Meadow and Salem Willow farther back.
Bella Bellucci has yet to race around two turns and her only career defeat came in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), in her lone start in a race longer than a mile. Still, Drysdale is unconcerned heading into the 1 1/8-mile Oaks.
"I have no distance concerns with her," the conditioner said. "Her full brother, Kurofune, won going long in Japan. She galloped out very well today and I don't think she'll have a problem with two turns.
"The 3-year-old filly division is very strong this year -- the Ashland winner (Take Charge Lady) was very impressive. She'll go to Churchill Downs Tuesday with Sunday Break."
Bella Bellucci earned $64,920 for her fourth win in five career starts. She came into the Comely following a win in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Paula Stakes in her only other start this year. As a juvenile, she won her debut race at Belmont Park and followed that with a win in the Astarita Stakes (gr. II) in October.
Bella Bellucci returned $3.20, $2.40, and $2.10. Short note paid $5.60 and $2.10 and completed the $25 exacta. Nonsuch Bay was worth $2.10 to show.
Nicholas M. Lotz bred the $925,000 2-year-old purchase in Kentucky. (Chart, Equibase