Maiden winner Apple Picker to target G1 Spinaway
ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Rudy Rodriguez originally planned to train Grade 1 Longines Test winner Bella Sofia up to her next start later this summer at Saratoga Race Course. Instead, he may start the 4-year-old Awesome Patriot filly in the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap on July 27 as a prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina on August 28, a “Win and You’re In” for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Keeneland.
“I’m not sure what race we run in yet, but there’s a lot of options for her and she’s nice and healthy,” said Rodriguez. “There are two races at Saratoga. Maybe we run in one, but we’re 80 percent to run in both. We’ll keep our fingers crossed with the Breeders’ Cup as the goal. We’ll look at the race on the 27th.”
Owned by Michael Imperio, Medallion Racing, Sofia Soares, Vincent Scuderi, and Parkland Thoroughbreds, Bella Sofia has posted two gutsy victories at Belmont this year in the Grade 3 Vagrancy on May 14 and the Grade 2 Bed o’ Roses on June 10. The Vagrancy was a hard-fought victory for Bella Sofia, who made her first start off a six-month layoff and battled to the wire with multiple graded stakes-winner Frank’s Rockette to prevail by a nose.
She returned a month later to take on Grade 1-winner Obligatory and two other rivals in the Bed o’ Roses. Sent to the lead by regular rider Luis Saez, Bella Sofia was unfazed by early pressure from Easy to Bless and widened her margins at every point of call to post a half-length victory over the fast-closing Obligatory.
“She’s doing nicely. She bounced out of her last race very well. She’s a fresh filly and she’s very lightly raced,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t need to do too much with her because she can run good fresh. My job with her now is to keep her healthy and happy. We let her tell us and we take it from there.”
Rodriguez may have another graded stakes contender on his hands after Michael Dubb’s first-time starter Apple Picker coasted home a four-length winner in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on Saturday at Belmont.
A dark bay daughter of Connect, Apple Picker led each step of the way under Hall of Famer John Velazquez and needed just one shake of the reins to open up on her six rivals and complete the race in 1:05.83.
Rodriguez said he liked what he saw from Apple Picker and will now target the Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway on September 4 at Saratoga Race Course.
“She’s a nice filly and she always showed promise,” said Rodriguez. “She was well behaved in the gate and everything. She broke sharp, the way she does in the morning. She performed much better than we expected, and that’s always good. I’m going to try to get her ready for the Spinaway. That’s my main goal.”
Wolfie’s Dynaghost to G3 Forbidden Apple
Woodslane Farm’s Kentucky homebred Wolfie’s Dynaghost will target the Grade 3, $175,000 Forbidden Apple on July 15 at Saratoga Race Course after a game runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Poker last out on June 18 at Belmont for trainer Tom Albertrani.
A 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper, Wolfie’s Dynaghost arrived at the Poker from a distant third-place effort in the Seek Again on May 22, where he led the field of three through the first half-mile but faltered over the good going and faded in the turn. He came back to post a strong effort in the Poker over firm turf when he once again set the pace but showed determination and was only defeated 1 1/4 lengths by Grade 1-placed Masen.
“He ran really well in the Poker and that was a good effort,” Albertrani said. “I think the race before that, the soft ground wasn’t to his liking, and he was beaten quite a far distance that day.”
Wolfie’s Dynaghost earned another graded placing this year when a close second in the Grade 3 Appleton in April at Gulfstream Park when he skimmed the rail after stalking in third and just missed the win by a half-length behind Phantom Currency. The versatile bay has earned victories on dirt, turf and synthetic, including a strong handicap victory over Gulfstream’s all-weather surface in January that garnered a 93 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We’ve tried him on dirt and he’s won on Polytrack and grass, so he’s pretty tough, but I think grass is his preferred surface,” said Albertrani. “He put in a good effort in the Poker, so we’ll head for the Forbidden Apple.”
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Bella Sofia winning the Bed o Roses at Belmont June 10, 2022. (Chelsea Durand)