Bellafina continued her dominance on the West Coast in Saturday’s Grade 2, US$200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes, holding off Enaya Alrabb to earn a front-running victory in her latest step toward the Kentucky Oaks.
This one was a bit less eye-catching than Bellafina's season debut in last month's Santa Ynez (G2) but earned her the same 10 points toward a start May 3 at Churchill Downs. The daughter of Quality Road sits atop the leaderboard now with 32 in total.
“When you’re 1-9, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do,” winning trainer Simon Callaghan said. “I think they went pretty legit fractions on a slightly sticky track. Maybe it blunted her finish a little bit. She did what she had to do — great to get the win.”
Familiar rival Mother Mother flanked Bellafina, ridden by Flavien Prat, through the one-mile race, with the leader ticking off fractions in 23.13, 46.33 and 1:10.31. Mother Mother could not keep up with the pace, but Enaya Alrabb moved up and challenged Bellafina on the outside.
The gap was closing between the two, but Bellafina found enough to keep Enaya Alrabb behind her by three-quarters of a length and completed the mile in 1:35.99. Calf Moon Bay was third.
It was the second gutsy performance by Enaya Alrabb against more experienced fillies. She last ran second in the Starlet (G1) and lost by a head to Chasing Yesterday.
As for Bellafina, Callaghan said the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) on April 6 is the final goal before heading back to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks and could mark her next start.
The filly was a US$800,000 2-year-old purchase for Kaleem Shah and she earned back her auction price by winning the Las Virgenes, which pushed her earnings to $828,000. Bellafina has won five of seven career starts, including the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Chandlier (G1) at 2, and broke her maiden in the Sorrento (G2). The only time she missed the board was when she ran fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Shah said Bellafina made him sweat it out watching Enaya Alrabb get close in the Las Virgenes. It wasn't her usual open-length win, but she found her way to the winner's circle despite connections seeing a bias in the track for closers.
“The last quarter,” Shah said, “I think her class came through.”