Kaleem Shah's Bellafina was at least three-wide around both turns in Saturday's G1 Santa Anita Oaks, but still pulled away to win by an easy 5 1/4 lengths in the stretch. The 3-year-old daughter of Quality Road was favored at 1-5 in the field of four, and completed 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:45.47. Flavien Prat rode Bellafina for trainer Simon Callaghan, and the filly earned 100 points toward the Kentucky Oaks with her victory.
“It worked out perfectly,” said Callaghan. “She relaxed great, did exactly what Flavien wanted and she was there when he wanted her, so it worked out as we hoped. We weren't sure what the tactics were going to be on the inside of us and we didn't want to commit to going to the lead because then we could be pressured. We figured staying out wide made sense.”
Flor de La Mar finished second ahead of her stablemate Chasing Yesterday, and Slewgoodtobetrue was fourth.
All four fillies broke sharply in the Santa Anita Oaks, making a four-wide line across the track into the clubhouse turn with Bellafina on the far outside. Flor de La Mar was the first to hold the lead, then Chasing Yesterday took over down the backstretch to mark fractions of :24.10 and :47.88. Bellafina stayed three-wide, moving up to second approaching the far turn.
Flor de La Mar took back the lead at the half-mile pole, only to be tackled by Bellafina turning for home. Chasing Yesterday was unable to keep pace when those two accelerated.
Bellafina pulled away from Flor de La Mar down the Santa Anita stretch, cruising under the wire to win by 5 1.4 lengths. Chasing Yesterday never quit trying and finished third, while Slewgoodtobetrue was never involved after the first turn and finished fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by JSM Equine, Bellafina was an $800,000 juvenile purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select sale. She was second on debut before breaking her maiden in the G2 Sorrento, and her only other defeat came at Churchill Downs in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, in which she finished fourth. As a 3-year-old Bellafina has a perfect three-for-three record, and her overall earnings now stand at over $1 million.
“We were a little wide on the first turn,” said Prat, who has ridden Bellafina in all eight of her starts. “I didn't want to get in any trouble, so I got her to be comfortable and relax. At the three eighths pole, she ducked out a little and the others got away from us. We regrouped and when we made our move and got the lead, I was quite confident. I'm looking forward to the Kentucky Oaks (Grade I, 1 1/8 miles on May 3). I'm confident that she will run better than she did in the Breeders' Cup.”
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