ELMONT, N.Y. – Heavy favorite and Grade 1 winner Bella Sofia made every pole a victorious one as she defeated a compact but competitive field in the 65th running of Friday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont Park.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez and owned by the partnership of Michael Imperio, Medallion Racing, Sofia Soares, Vincent Scuderi and Parkland Thoroughbreds, Bella Sofia won her second straight graded stakes race and the fourth in her last five outings.
The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Awesome Patriot broke alertly under Luis Saez and used her trademark blistering speed to capture this seven-furlong fixture for filly and mare sprinters aged 4 and older during the second day of the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Bella Sofia dictated the pace as the 3-5 favorite and set sprite fractions of 23:62 seconds, 46:18 and 1:09.36 on a fast main track before crossing the wire in 1:21.36.
Though Bella Sofia had opened a comfortable lead down the lane, she had to dig in late under strong left-handed urging by Saez to hold off a fast closing Obligatory and Jose Ortiz.
“She’s pretty quick. Today, we just let her be happy,” said Saez, who has been in the irons for seven of Bella Sofia’s eight career starts. “She ran from there pretty quick and was comfortable. I was a little worried about [Obligatory]. I know she’s coming flying at the end, but I had plenty of horse. That was easy for her. She finished like nothing. She came back like she didn’t race. A lot of credit to Rudy. Last time, she was a little tired at the end off a layoff, but today, she won easy.”
Bella Sofia, who won the Grade 3 Vagrancy here on May 14 in her first start since a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last November, was victorious by a half-length and 9-5 shot Obligatory finished another 10 1/2 lengths in front of 3-1 choice Glass Ceiling. Easy to Bless completed the field, another 8 3/4-lengths back.
“When she broke very clean, and Luis went 23 [for the first quarter-mile], I said ‘OK, now we’re good.’ Most of her races she finishes in 11 and change, so it’s going to take a really good horse to get her,” Rodriguez said. “She looks like she got a little tired in the end and didn’t switch leads. I know in the back of my mind we ran her back quickly, but she’s just so special.”
Ortiz said he thinks that Obligatory, a Juddmonte Farms homebred trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, is special as well.
“I was expecting somebody to put the pressure on the other horse [Bella Sofia] and nobody did,” Ortiz said. “Nothing against the other filly, but I think my horse is better. She just beat me because of the circumstances of the race. I’m very happy with the way my horse ran. When I asked her, she was there for me.”
Mott said he was hoping a pace battle would develop for his last out deep-closing winner of the Grade 1 Derby City Distaff on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
“We ran well considering the pace scenario,” Mott said. “Our filly laid closer and still finished. We were hoping somebody would try to go with the other one [Bella Sofia], but nobody did.”
Mott said Obligatory could target the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina on August 28 at Saratoga Race Course, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Keeneland.
As for Bella Sofia, Rodriguez will take his time mapping her future races.
“I’m just going to enjoy this one right now,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a couple races in the program for her. I just want to see how she comes back. She’s once in a lifetime and a dream come true.”
Bella Sofia, who took the Grade 1 Longines Test last August at Saratoga, returned $3.50 for a $2 wager. She improved her bankroll to $840,100 with her share of the purse and upped her record to 6-1-0 in eight career races.
Live racing resumes Saturday at Belmont Park with a 13-race Belmont Stakes Day card boasting eight Grade 1 events, highlighted by the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. First post is 11:20 a.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Park, and the best way to bet every race of the spring/summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Lynne Snierson
Photo of Bella Sofia by Chelsea Durand