SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – Mathis Stable’s Bellera struck the front in mid-stretch and broke clear to win Friday’s $200,000 Comely Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.
Breaking from post 3 under John Velazquez at 5/1 odds, Bellera raced three-wide into the clubhouse turn before settling into second at the top of the backstretch. Up ahead, the 9/5 second choice Gold Standard posted opening fractions of :24.33, :49.69, and 1:15.22 while Bellera maintained her close stalking position.
Sidling alongside the leader in the far turn, Bellera hit the top of the stretch in stride with Gold Standard. Breaking clear as she hit the 1/8 pole, the Todd Pletcher trainee drew off late to win by 1 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:52.91 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the fast main track.
“Todd said to do whatever she wants, wherever she’s comfortable,” Velazquez said. “It was going to help her to get a burst out of there, and then I just sat quietly with her. She settled so nice. She was close and comfortable. I just wanted until the 1/4 pole to let her go. She responded very nice. I hit her once and she went to squeeze the horse inside a little bit. She kind of went away after that.”
Arrifana, the 8/5 favorite who had won the first four starts of her career, suffered her first loss after failing to close quickly enough on the eventual winner. She edged Gold Standard late by 3/4 of a length for second. Afleet Destiny headed Classic Fit for fourth, with Oxy Lady just a 1/2-length behind them. Lightscameraaction and Stand for the Flag completed the order of finish.
Bellera’s win, her first at the graded level, improved her record to 6-3-2-0 with $209,960 earned after being purchased for $90,000 as a yearling. The 3-year-old daughter of Bernardini’s lone off-the-board finish came last out in the local Turnback the Alarm Handicap (G3) when she lost her rider shortly after the start – though even then, she finished ahead of every foe.
“She won the last race, she just didn’t have a rider on her back,” Pletcher joked. “When something like that happens, you’re always concerned if they come back safely, but she came back great and trained great. I felt that the mile and 1/8 suited her well and she came back great today. We were just focused on this, it’s the last straight 3-year-old filly, two-turn opportunity, so we were looking forward to this. It seems like she gets better and better. It’s nice when you have one that can handle the mile and 1/8 like she does.”
Bellera returned $11.80 to win, $5.70 to place, and $3.70 to show. Arrifana brought back $3.80 to place and $2.60 to show, while Gold Standard paid $2.70 to show.