Her magnificent stride silhouetted against a striking afternoon sun at Santa Anita, heavily favored Bellafina made short work of four rivals in taking Sunday's Grade II, $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes by 8 ½ lengths, thus in large part erasing the memory of a disappointing run in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies this past November. Ridden by Flavien Prat and trained by Simon Callaghan, the Kaleem Shah color bearer got seven furlongs in a rapid 1:22 flat.
Although she didn't vault away from the gate initially, Bellafina was soon into stride in her first start since Nov. 2 and was head and head with speedy Mother Mother just to her inside four and a half furlongs out. A quarter mile from home, it was obvious Bellafina, who had finished fourth as the favorite in the 1 1/16 miles Juvenile Fillies, was “back,” as she lengthened her stride, opening up a length turning for home en route to a sensational win on a picturesque winter's day.
“Coming out of the gate, I really didn't know what to expect,” said Prat, who's been aboard the daughter of Quality Road in all six of her starts. “I knew there was speed outside of me. She broke well, relaxed and dropped the bit around the far turn and then she took off. The Breeders' Cup was just a bad day…She had trained well for Simon coming into this and I expected her to run well and she did.”
A two-time Grade I winner coming into the Santa Ynez, Bellafina was off as the 2-5 favorite and paid $2.80, $2.10 and $2.10.
An $800,000 Fasig Tipton 2-Year Old in Training Sale purchase this past March, Bellafina, who is out of the Malibu Moon mare Akron Moon, cut back in distance today from a pair of races at a mile and one sixteenth. With the winner's share of $120,000, she now has earnings of $708,000 and improved her overall mark to 6-4-1-0. In addition to money-earned, Bellafina also picked up 10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points.
“I left it to Flavien today,” said Callaghan. “He knows the filly very well. I told him he was on the best filly. He's such a smart rider and I hate tying people down with instructions in regards to the race. Just let it unfold and get the job done.
“She wasn't even blowing and was just standing after the race…It was like it was nothing for her. We've always thought a lot of her, and have made no secret of that, so it was nice to see her put on that sort of performance. We've loosely talked about two races before the Santa Anita Oaks (Grade I, 1 1/16 miles on April 6) and we'll see how it comes out…Kaleem is ultra-patient and we'll just let the filly tell us the best plan.”
Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, Bob Baffert's Mother Mother kept longshot Tomlin at bay for the place, running second by 1 ¾ lengths. Off at 2-1, Mother Mother paid $2.40 and $2.10.
Tomlin, a minor stakes winner from Golden Gate Fields, broke like a rocket, but soon settled into an attentive fifth position heading past the five furlong pole and ended up 7 ½ lengths clear of Reflect. Ridden by Tyler Baze, Tomlin was off at 16-1 and paid $3.40 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.67, 45.00 and 1:09.18.
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