TAMPA, FL – Class relief proved to be exactly what Molto Bella needed as the Ian Wilkes-trained filly cruised to an impressive score in Saturday’s $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Breaking from post 6 under Luca Panici at 7/1 odds, Molto Bella rushed up to take command but was soon joined by Warm to her outside. Together, the two posted opening fractions of :22.61 and :45.12 while Into Trouble kept close watch from further outside in third. Inching away from her nearmost foe in the far turn, Molto Bella hit the top of the stretch full of gusto and drew off impressively. Kept to task through to the wire, Molto Bella crossed with a 6 1/2-length advantage in a stakes record final time of 1:22.20 for the 7-furlong sprint over the fast main track.
“She broke really good, and she was a little bit aggressive early,” Panici said. “I tried to relax her, but that didn’t work too well, so I let her go by herself, and she responded really well. She is a very nice filly with a lot of class and a good brain.”
Unable to keep tabs on the winner in the stretch run, Into Trouble was able to dig in late and fend off Another Time by a 1/2-length at the wire to secure second. Into the South had to similarly hold off an advancing Souper Escape for fourth, while the 2/1 favorite Bella Ciao never factored into the running and finished a disappointing sixth. Gold Credit, West Horizen, a spent Warm, and Global Beauty Coco (who broke through the gate prematurely, then was vanned off after crossing the wire) completed the order of finish. Twixt and Shout was scratched.
Molto Bella’s win was her first since breaking her maiden at Ellis Park last July and was a nice bounce-back performance after finishing a disappointing fourth last out in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct. The 3-year-old daughter of Violence improved her record to 6-2-2-0 with $102,505 in earnings for owners Six Column Stables, Randall Bloch, Robert Manfuso, Fred Merritt, John Seiler, and Stephen Harner.
“Ian said he wanted to go back to one turn today and see where she takes us,” Bloch said. “We may be back for the Suncoast Stakes (run here at 8.32 furlongs), but we’ll let Ian make the call.”
Molto Bella returned $16.80 to win, $6.40 to place, and $4.20 to show. Into Trouble brought back $6 to place and $4 to show, while Another Time paid $3.40 to show.