ELMONT, N.Y. – Coppa, a promising three year-old filly owned by Anthony Fanticola and Joseph M. Scardino and trained by Phil D’Amato, kicked off the stakes action at Belmont Park’s Stars & Stripes Festival by courageously holding off two fast closing rivals in a three-horse stretch battle to capture the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes by a neck on Saturday.
Sent of as the odds-on favorite, Coppa broke from the far outside post, and in a change of tactics from her two previous races when she went right to the front, settled three-wide in third position, just off of the early pace set by Old Harbor who led the field of six through an opening quarter-mile in 24.47 seconds and a half in 49.32.
Perched in an ideal spot at the top of the stretch, Joe Talamo sent Coppa after the lead, and although she easily passed the tiring pace setters, there was still plenty left to do as Malibu Stacy to her outside and One True Kiss was weaving through fillies and closing fast inside. However, Talamo urged Coppa and she dug in gamely to repel the challenges from both of those fillies and earn the victory.
“When she got in front of those other fillies I really had a ton of horse under me and I thought we were going to open up a little bit,” Talamo said. “She started out in a good way but when those two other fillies came through [One True Kiss and Malibu Stacy] she really turned it on. I was confident she could rate just off the pace. Thanks to Phil, I’ve been working her a lot in the morning and I definitely got to know her where she’ll sit just off horses pretty nice. With that cozy nine-hole in a seven-horse field it worked out perfect.”
Coppa began her career in California, winning her debut at Del Mar and then an allowance race at Santa Anita. D’Amato shipped the filly across the country for her stakes debut, and the Yesbyjiminy filly’s determination made the trip worthwhile.
“For being a lightly raced 3-year-old filly, she handled shipping cross-country unbelievably,” said Chris Davis, assistant to D’Amato. “She showed her class today in running on a new track. It’s a lot to ask, and she exceeded all the expectations.
“She settled real nice for Joe today,” he continued. “When she got clear and the horses came running to her late, she dug in and galloped out way in front. She’s still learning, but she’s doing everything the right way. We couldn’t be happier.”
Malibu Stacy finished second, just a neck behind the winner and a head in front of One True Kiss, who was third followed Lost Raven, Flatterywillgetyou, Behrnik’s Bank and Blast. Coppa crossed the finish line in 1:16:23 for the seven furlongs and increased her lifetime earnings to $153,000, while adding a graded stakes victory to her resume. She returned $3.90 for a $2 win wager. Appealing Maggie and Stradivarius were scratched from the race.