Bellafina bids to rebound in Santa Ynez

Jan 04, 2019 Kellie Reilly/

A lackluster fourth as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Bellafina aims to regain her winning habit in Sunday’s $200,000 Santa Ynez (G2). The seven-furlong contest at Santa Anita looms as the first Kentucky Oaks (G1) scoring race of the new year, offering points on the 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.

Bellafina ranked as California’s top two-year-old filly after romping in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Sorrento (G2), and she furthered her dominance when stretching out to 1 1/16 miles in the Chandelier (G1). But the Simon Callaghan trainee ran well below that level in the Breeders’ Cup, fading 9 1/4 lengths behind Jaywalk at Churchill Downs. Bellafina was later found to be “in season.” Although Callaghan did not cite it as an excuse, feeling the effects of her reproductive cycle could have contributed to her subpar effort.

Back home at Santa Anita, Bellafina has been training forwardly for her sophomore debut. The talented filly is expected to return to form as the 4-5 favorite on the morning line. She’ll also carry the top weight of 124 pounds with regular rider Flavien Prat.

Her key opponent is Mother Mother from the barn of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. She was no match for Bellafina when a distant second in the Del Mar Debutante, but the May 20 foal is eligible to improve with maturity.

By the same sire as American Pharoah, Pioneerof the Nile, Mother Mother was most recently a close third to Chasing Yesterday, Pharoah’s half-sister, in the Starlet (G1). Now Mother Mother takes the blinkers off – Baffert wins 37 percent with this equipment change – and shortens up in distance. The last time she raced around one turn, two starts ago, she wired the Rags to Riches at Churchill Downs. Mother Mother also gets a rider switch to Drayden Van Dyke. Pegged as the 9-5 second choice, she will break from the rail, with Bellafina next door in post 2.

Only three other fillies are in the Santa Ynez line-up, and all must step up on their records so far to challenge the top two.

Reflect, fifth to Bellafina in the Sorrento, appeared to be turning the corner with a good second in the Alcibiades (G1). But she’s regressed since when finishing far up the track in both the Juvenile Fillies and Golden Rod (G2). Perhaps returning to Santa Anita, site of her debut maiden win, will revive her fortunes. Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux takes the reins for his trainer brother, Keith.

Doug O’Neill sends out Sold It, who tired to fifth in the Starlet. That marked her first two-turn attempt, and reverting to a sprint could help. Tomlin ships in from her northern California base, where she captured the Golden Gate Debutante last out.

The Santa Ynez is carded as the 8TH race Sunday, with a scheduled post time of 7 p.m. (EST)/4 p.m. (PST), and you can watch and wager at

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