HOT SPRINGS, AR – Kaleem Shah’s multiple Grade 1-winning filly Bellafina is set to make her 2020 debut in this Saturday’s 6-furlong $125,000 Carousel Stakes, but seven others – including three stakes winners – will not make it easy for her.
Bellafina represents the class of the field, having won six graded stakes events for trainer Simon Callaghan between ages 2 and 3.
“We were always going to try and bring her back in an easier spot than her last few races, which have been contentious Grade 1s,” Callaghan said. “Kind of landed on this spot for obvious reasons. She’s doing really good. She looks like she’s getting over the track pretty well there.”
Herregular rider Flavien Prat did not join her on the plane ride from southern California, so Joe Talamo – a former mainstay on the same circuit – has picked up the mount. Talamo was aboard for Bellafina’s lone local work on April 18, when she covered 4 furlongs in :47.80.
“Unbelievable,” Talamo said after the work. “Absolutely skipped over the track this morning.”
Here is how the field for the Carousel shapes up:
1. Bellafina (8/5) – The deserving morning-line favorite has a record of 7-3-3-1 in one-turn races and was just 3/4 of a length from winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1). She is not without fault, however; her last victory came in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) on April 6, 2019.
2. Midnight Fantasy (5/1) – This Joe Sharp trainee has nearly as many stakes victories (five) as the favorite, though three were against fellow Louisiana-breds. She was a neck victor last time out in the local 5 1/2-furlong Spring Fever Stakes over two rivals whom she faces here and fired a best-of-105 bullet 4-furlong work in :46.40 on April 18.
3. Sunny Dale (6/1) – Whether it was turning 4 or changing scenery, this Jerry Hollendorfer trainee has not lost in three local starts, all at this same 6-furlong distance. Joel Rosario replaces Martin Garcia, who rode her in all three of those victories, but bettors need not fret: Rosario and Hollendorfer won five of 20 mounts (25%) together in 2019.
4. What a Fox (8/1) – Having the meet’s leading trainer on your side is never a bad thing. Robertino Diodoro moved this filly up to stakes company for the first time last out, where she ran third in the Spring Fever. She has a record of 5-3-0-1 since Diodoro claimed her for $50k last October.
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5. Classy Act (15/1) – The second Sharp entry won an allowance/optional claiming event over this same course and distance last time out after pressing the pace throughout. Expect Adam Beschizza to send her to the front and try to take the field gate to wire.
6. Amy’s Challenge (4/1) – This 5-year-old daughter of Artie Schiller is hoping to right the ship as she makes her third start of the season. She began 2019 by winning runnings of the American Beauty Stakes and the Spring Fever, then missed taking the Madison Stakes (G1) by a neck. She just missed repeating in the Spring Fever last time out, showing improvement from her dull 2020 debut.
7. Lady Suebee (20/1) – The longest shot on the tote is up against things from a pace perspective, as she is one of several entered who like to run on or press the early lead. She is cutting back after five tries going two turns against stakes foes. Tyler Baze rides for the fourth straight race.
8. Mia Mischief (9/2) – The meet’s leading jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., will once again ride this Grade 1-winning 5-year-old mare from the Steve Asmussen barn. She has a local record of 5-3-2-0, including an easy allowance/optional claiming event over this same course and distance n March 20 to kick off her 2020 season.