ARCADIA, Calif. — Kaleem Shah’s classy Bella Vita and William (Jack) Sims’ streaking homebred Leggs Galore, a pair of 4-year-old fillies by Shah’s 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern, headline a strong field of eight California-bred fillies and mares going six furlongs on turf in Sunday’s $100,000 Irish O’Brien Stakes at Santa Anita.
Sponsored by the CTBA, the Irish O’Brien is part of the lucrative Golden State Series for eligible California-bred or sired horses.
A filly that has done nearly everything asked of her, the Simon Callaghan-trained Bella Vita was “push button” in rallying for a thoroughly dominating 4 ½ length win going six furlongs on dirt in the Spring Fever Stakes versus statebreds here on Feb. 21, her first start since running a close second in the six furlong dirt Evening Jewel Stakes on May 16, 2020.
“One thing about this filly, she’s very tractable,” said Callaghan following her Spring Fever score. “You can put her wherever you want, and I think you have that tactical speed but you relax. It’s nice for the jockeys so they can put her wherever she wants (to be).”
Out of the Storm Cat mare Queenie Cat, Bella Vita sold for $400,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Although she’s transitioning back to the turf following a pair of main track sprints, Bella Vita has proven form on grass. Second, beaten a nose in her 5 ½ furlong maiden turf debut Jan. 10, 2020, she was a rousing 5 ¼ length maiden winner under the same conditions in her next start and in her most recent turf try, she was a close third in the one mile China Doll Stakes versus open company on March 7, 2020.
With leading man Flavien Prat back aboard, Bella Vita should be extremely tough to beat as she seeks her third win from six career starts.
A winner of four consecutive turf sprints, Leggs Galore comes off an impressive gate to wire score over the course in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint Jan. 16, winning her initial stakes assignment by 3 ¼ lengths while never challenged.
Trained by Phil D’Amato, Leggs Galore was well beaten in two maiden starts on dirt versus open company at Oaklawn Park on March 14 and April 11 of last year but has blossomed in four turf sprints versus statebreds dating back to Aug. 7 at Del Mar.
“She runs very well fresh and she’d been training as good as she can possibly train, so I was expecting a big performance, but that was pretty impressive today,” said D’Amato following her Sunshine Millions win, a race that had been preceded by a four-month gap in starts. “I think being able to steadily develop her and the turf has moved her up here…Jack Sims has been really good with that and I think that helped with the success today.”
Out of the Indian Charlie mare Cashing Tickets, Leggs Galore, who will be ridden for the fourth consecutive time by Ricky Gonzalez, has four wins from six starts and has earnings of $202,208.
THE $100,000 IRISH O’BRIEN STAKES Race 6 of 8 Approximate post time 3 p.m. PT
1. Nardini—Jose Valdivia, Jr.—122
2. Bella Vita—Flavien Prat—124
3. Cassie Belle—Tyler Baze—120
4. Sadie Bluegrass—Brayan Pena—122
5. Pulpit Rider—Juan Hernandez—124
6. Scarlet Heat—Drayden Van Dyke—120
7. Sapphire Kid—Tiago Pereira—122
8. Leggs Galore—Ricardo Gonzalez—124
First post time for a eight-race card on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. All of Santa Anita’s races are offered free of charge at santaanita.com/live and fans can wager at 1st.com/bet. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.