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Pizza Bianca Returns From Royal Ascot Ready To Cook | 2022 Sands Point Stakes Preview & FREE Picks
Pizza Bianca winning the 2021 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Ernie Belmonte)

Pizza Bianca Returns From Royal Ascot Ready To Cook | 2022 Sands Point Stakes Preview & FREE Picks

Mike previews the 2022 Sands Point Stakes (G2) at Belmont at the Big A, then gives his top picks and longshots. Though she didn’t pick up a victory at the 2022 Royal Ascot meet, Pizza Bianca seems ready to cook as she makes her long-awaited North American racing return. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s homebred Pizza Bianca will make her anticipated return following an international endeavor at Royal Ascot in Saturday’s 28th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point for 3-year-old fillies going nine furlongs on the inner turf at Belmont at the Big A.

Pizza Bianca has not raced since finishing eighth in the Group 1 Coronation Cup on June 17 at the prestigious Royal Ascot meet in England. The distant effort was the dark bay or brown daughter of Fastnet Rock’s first off-the-board finish in six career starts and came after securing a victory in the Hilltop on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course.

A smart winning ride by Jose Ortiz in last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar put Pizza Bianca on the map following a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Natalma at Woodbine in her second lifetime start. In the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Pizza Bianca broke from the rail in the field of 14, was last at the three-quarters point of call, split foes and weaved her way through traffic to win by a half-length and provide trainer Christophe Clement with his first Breeders’ Cup triumph.

“She had a break after Ascot. We brought her back and gave her some time,” said Clement, who saddled Discreet Marq [2013] and Rutherienne [2007] to Sands Point scores. “I tried to get her ready for Saratoga, but she needed more time than that. She’s doing well and we’re excited to get her back.”

Jose Ortiz, the pilot aboard Pizza Bianca in her last four starts, will ride from post 9. 

Clement also sends out Blue Devil Racing Stable’s Canisy, who enters off a fifth-place finish to McKulick in the 11-furlong Grade 3 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational on September 17 at Belmont at the Big A.

The Point of Entry dark bay displayed different tactics in her two trips to the winner’s circle, coming from off-the-pace to capture her 1 1/16-mile career debut on May 1 at Belmont Park before defeating winners in gate-to-wire fashion going nine furlongs on July 14 at Saratoga.

“She’s training well. We tried running her long last time, and we’re cutting her back in distance which should be more to her liking,” Clement said.

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has ridden Canisy in five lifetime starts and will return to the saddle once more from post 4.

Trainer Graham Motion also sends out a pair of runners in Gary Broad’s Vergara, a last out winner of the Dueling Grounds Oaks on September 5 at Kentucky Downs, and two-time winner Lady Baffled.

Vergara, by Noble Mission, will return to Aqueduct for the first time since November when capturing the Tepin. Third to Pizza Bianca in the Hilltop, Vergara earned graded stakes black type when second beaten a head in the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen on August 6 at Woodbine.

Vergara’s triumph in the Dueling Grounds Oaks was her first past the Sands Point distance. A close second down the backstretch, Vergara was in command around the far turn and fended off a late rally from returning rival Skims to win by a head under Joel Rosario.

“It’s a tricky track. I have a love-hate relationship with that place myself, but she certainly seemed to handle it,” Motion said of Kentucky Downs. “She’s always shown that kind of talent, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise. Joel gave her a great ride. I think she likes Aqueduct and the mile and an eighth distance and she doesn’t mind a little give in the ground.”

Rosario will return aboard Vergara from post 2.

RyZan Sun Racing’s Lady Baffled will make her first start on grass as well as her debut for Motion. Previously trained by Kent Sweezey, the daughter of Frosted enters off a triumph against winners on August 19 over the Monmouth Park main track.

Bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks Farm, Lady Baffled is out of the Graydar mare Baffling – a half-sister to Grade 1 winner and prominent sire Constitution.

Breaking from post 8, Lady Baffled will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche.

Trainer Tom Albertrani will be in pursuit of his fourth Sands Point conquest when saddling Woodslane Farm’s homebred Hail To. Albertrani previously garnered victory in this race with Raw Silk [2008], Gozzip Girl [2019] and Better Lucky [2012].

Hail To, by Kitten’s Joy, sprung a 19-1 upset when defeating elders in a first level allowance at Saratoga on September 2. She made a sweeping six wide move in upper stretch, collaring pacesetter Blue Times and fending off an inside rally from next-out winner Transient to win by a half-length. The victory, her first triumph against winners, registered a career-best 83 Beyer Speed Figure.

Hail To is out of the Dynaformer broodmare Dynaire, making her a full-sister to long-distance specialist Sadler’s Joy, who captured the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga and the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park, both 12-furlong events, for Albertrani.

Jose Lezcano retains the mount from post 6.

Eminent Victor will try to give four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown his sixth Sands Point victory, breaking from post 3 under Manny Franco.

Owned by Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, Louis Lazzinnaro and Michael J. Caruso, Eminent Victor was third in the Grade 1 Natalma at two and made her 3-year-old debut a winning one in the Wild Applause on June 25 at Belmont Park. The daughter of Mr. Z was narrowly beaten in the next out Grade 3 Lake George on July 22 at Saratoga, finishing a nose behind stablemate Dolce Zel. She was a last out troubled fifth in the Grade 2 Lake Placid on August 20 at the Spa.

Completing the field are multiple graded stakes-placed Skims [post 1, John Velazquez], last out Virginia Oaks winner Spirit And Glory [post 5, Dylan Davis], and New York-sired stakes-winner Golden Rocket [post 7, Jose Gomez]. Baby Man is entered for the main-track only.

The Sands Point is carded as Race 9 on Saturday’s 10-race program. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.