No matter how you slice it, it takes a pretty special filly to sweep the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II), Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), and Chandelier Stakes (gr. I), California’s three major prep races for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).
Over the last 40 years, only four fillies have completed this impressive three-race streak, starting with Arewehavingfunyet (1985) and continuing with the champion Chilukki (1999) and Executiveprivilege (2012). On Saturday, the up-and-coming Bellafina joined them with an eye-catching triumph in the Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita, earning a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs, as well as 10 qualification points for the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) over that same track.
Bellafina’s greatest weapon is her exceptional early speed, but with blinkers off in the Chandelier, Bellafina showed that she can also track the pace successfully, settling in second place early on as longshot Vibrance posted sharp fractions of :22.88 and :46.51. In the end, those were the only two fillies that mattered, as Bellafina took command after six furlongs and pulled away under urging to win by 6 ½ lengths while Vibrance held on to finish a clear second, 4 ½ lengths ahead of Brill.
If there’s one thing you can knock about Bellafina’s performance, it’s that she did not finish particularly fast, coming home the fourth quarter-mile in :26.36 and the final sixteenth in :07.12 to record a final time of just 1:44.59 for 8.5 furlongs, the same distance over which the Juvenile Fillies will be contested. But then again, Santa Anita was not playing overly fast on Saturday, and in a year when two-year-old fillies across the country have struggled to post fast finishing times on dirt, the fact that Bellafina was shortening stride late might not be all that concerning.
In addition, Bellafina earned a solid 89 Beyer speed figure for her Chandelier victory, the second-highest Beyer posted by any juvenile filly this year… trailing only Bellafina’s own 94 from the Sorrento Stakes.
Trained by Simon Callaghan for owner Kaleem Shah, Bellafina was ridden to victory by Flavien Prat, who credited the removal of blinkers with helping Bellafina step up her game while stretching out in distance for the first time. Callaghan agreed, telling Santa Anita publicity “I think the big key today was to see her relax, and going two turns that was very important. We took the blinkers off—it was a decision I thought would benefit her. She was so relaxed today. The race set up about how we hoped, she relaxed and was breathing throughout, and then kicked at the end. I think that’s about all you could ever hope for. When she had the blinkers on, she was a little more tense… She switched leads and did everything right, and she dominated today.”
Suffice to say, if Bellafina does everything right again on November 2nd at Churchill Downs, it would come as no surprise to see her dominate the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in similar fashion.