SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.- Bella Sofia kicked into gear at the top of the lane and surged to a 4 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez for owners Michael Imperio, Vincent Scuderi, Sofia Soares, Gabrielle Farm, Mazel Stable Partners and Matthew Mercurio, Bella Sofia, a $20,000 purchase at the OBS July Two-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale, bested a field of regally bred rivals to win for the third time in four starts.
Bella Sofia, with Luis Saez up, broke alertly but Illumination, piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, was urged to the lead from her inside post to mark the opening quarter mile in 22.84 seconds on the fast main track.
Illumination led the field into the turn through a half-mile in 45.70 as Bella Sofia continued to press with Souper Sensational, Search Results and Zaajel cueing up to launch their bids. Saez, confident throughout, asked Bella Sofia for more late in the turn and the filly responded with a strong surge, kicking clear inside the three-sixteenths and powering through the line a dominant winner in a final time of 1:21.54.
Saez said he felt comfortable throughout.
“She broke perfectly. We were looking for that spot right there to sit and make a run into the stretch,” Saez said. “She did it so well and so beautifully. She came through the stretch pretty smoothly. I knew the one horse [Illumination] had some speed, so the plan was to break from there, relax and make one move with her. She’s a pretty nice filly.”
A dark bay daughter of Awesome Patriot out of the Consolidator mare Love Contract, Bella Sofia stretched out to seven furlongs for the first time after a trio of six-furlong sprints at Belmont Park, including an 11 1/4-length romp on debut in May.
Following a runner-up effort in the Jersey Girl in June, Bella Sofia returned to winning form on July 11, besting her elders in a first-level allowance by 6 1/2-lengths.
The victory marked a third Grade 1 win at Saratoga for Rodriguez, who captured the Spinaway in 2014 with Condo Commando and again in 2017 with Lady Ivanka.
“I know we asked a lot. We’re just happy to have her in the barn. The day she broke her maiden, she put everybody away impressively,” Rodriguez said. “She was training good. You know when you draw the outside, you pretty much just let the jockey figure out what they want to do. She broke better than anybody. I thought she was going to be out front when she broke that good. She was nice and comfortable, and she was running very well for him and when he asked her, she was there for him.”
Souper Sensational, with Ricardo Santana Jr. up, won the place battle by 1 1/2-lengths over Search Results. Rounding out the order of finish were Always Carina, Obligatory, Illumination, Zaajel, and Make Mischief.
“I had the trip. You couldn’t ask for a better trip than that. She was second-best, that’s all there is to it,” said Santana, Jr.
Bred in Kentucky by Two Tone Farms, Bella Sofia banked $275,000 in victory while improving her record to 4-3-1-0. She paid $10.40 for a $2 win ticket.
Longines Test Stakes Replay
Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring the $120,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose, the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack and the Grade 3, $700,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
By Keith McCalmont/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Bella Sofia, (Elsa Lorieul)