SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Michael Imperio, Medallion Racing, Sofia Soares, Vincent Scuderi, and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Bella Sofia returns to the site of her first Grade 1 score in Wednesday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, the 4-year-old Awesome Patriot dark bay made her graded debut a winning one last summer, drawing off to a 4 1/4-length score in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Longines Test.
She returns Wednesday off a pair of graded wins at Belmont Park for the first of two expected starts at the Spa, including the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina Handicap on August 28 at the Spa, a “Win and You’re In” for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.
“The Breeders’ Cup is our ultimate goal,” Rodriguez said. “To see her come back the way she’s doing is a plus. Sometimes, it’s difficult for horses from 3-to-4, but her coming back and doing the same thing as last year is special for us.”
Bella Sofia made her seasonal debut in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 3 Vagrancy on May 14 off a six-month layoff, battling to the wire with returning rival Frank’s Rockette to prevail by a nose.
Last out, Bella Sofia made every pole a winning one, staving off Grade 1-winner Obligatory for a half-length win in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Bed o’ Roses on June 10.
Rodriguez said Bella Sofia has trained forwardly out of the Bed o’ Roses, including a bullet five-eighths breeze in 59.20 under regular pilot Luis Saez on July 16 over the Saratoga main track.
“It was a good work,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to have a nice work, so I let Luis breeze her. She might blow out again tomorrow. She’s ready to go. She looks like she came back good out of the race.
“She’s a lot more mature this year. She’s stronger,” Rodriguez added. “She lets you do a lot more things. She’s getting older and I think that helps us.”
Bella Sofia followed up her Test win last summer with a 3 1/2-length score over Lady Rocket in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap in September at Belmont ahead of a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Del Mar while making the sixth start of her sophomore campaign.
While there is other speed signed on in the compact four-horse field, Rodriguez said he is confident Saez, last year’s leading rider at the Spa, will work out a trip.
“She’s a very good horse out of the gate. There’s going to be a lot of speed this time, but Luis knows her very well,” Rodriguez said. “I think she can sit. She doesn’t necessarily need the lead, but she always breaks very good. It may not make sense for us to try and change things at this stage. If the race presents different, then Luis has to use his own judgment. He’s one of the best jockeys in the country and he knows the filly very well. We just have to bring her over in the best way we can and everything else is in God’s hands.”
Bella Sofia, assigned a field-high 125 pounds, will leave post 2 under Saez.
Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ Frank’s Rockette will look to turn the tables on Bella Sofia for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The 5-year-old Into Mischief bay has completed the exacta in both starts this year after running second to Acting Out in the Carousel in April at Oaklawn Park.
Frank’s Rockette has proven to be extremely effective at the Spa, finishing second in both the Grade 2 Adirondack and Grade 1 Spinaway as a juvenile in 2019. She added the 2020 Grade 2 Prioress to her ledger here just two months after making the grade in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont.
Last year, Frank’s Rockette picked up stakes wins in the American Beauty at Oaklawn and the Saylorville at Prairie Meadows in an eight-start campaign that included graded-placings in the Grade 3 Winning Colors at Churchill Downs and the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream Park.
Frank’s Rockette will carry 121 pounds when exiting the inside post under Flavien Prat, who was aboard for both starts this season.
Westerberg, Mrs. John Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s graded-stakes winner Kimari, a 5-year-old Munnings bay, will make her Spa dirt debut for trainer Wesley Ward.
The versatile Kimari boasts multiple wins on dirt and turf led by a three-quarter length score in last year’s seven-furlong Grade 1 Madison over the Keeneland main track, besting graded-stakes winner Estilo Talentoso and multiple graded-stakes winner Bell’s the One, who dead-heated for place.
She exited the Madison to finish a closing seventh in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at five furlongs in November at Del Mar to close out a three-start campaign that included a score in the Spring Fever at Oaklawn.
Kimari has made three starts this season, taking an optional-claimer in March at Gulfstream ahead of a third-place effort when defending her title in the Grade 1 Madison in April at Keeneland. She enters from an even fifth-place finish in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Derby City Distaff on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
Ward said he drew a line through her most recent effort.
“She was coming back on short rest and there’s a big difference between Churchill’s main surface and Keeneland. I think she’ll run a big race here,” Ward said.
Kimari breezed five-eighths over the Oklahoma training track on Thursday in 1:01.31.
“She’s had some really nice spacing and some great workouts at Keeneland,” Ward said. “And then she had a nice breeze here yesterday on the Oklahoma track.”
Joel Rosario, aboard for the Grade 1 score, retains the mount from post 4 and Ward said he is hopeful the expected speed will benefit Kimari [123 pounds].
“Joel has ridden her great in all of her races. Historically, she breaks slow, so we’ll let the speed go,” Ward said. “It’s a six-furlong sprint, but there’s some fast ones in there.”
Ohio-bred Amadevil, trained and co-owned by David Wolochuk with Blue Snow Racing Stables, has won 7-of-8 starts beginning with an eye-opening 24 1/4-length debut win last June at Thistledown, covering five furlongs in 57.48.
“It was quick,” said Wolochuk of the debut that garnered a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. “We always thought she’d have talent for the Ohio-bred program.”
Unraced as a juvenile, the 4-year-old Dominus bay launched her career with a five-race win streak against fellow state-breds at Thistledown, taking the Michael G. Mackey Memorial Angenora in September and the Scarlet and Gray Handicap in October.
Amadevil traveled to Mahoning Valley in November for the six-furlong First Lady, battling for the lead with Esplanade through a quarter-mile in 22.30 before taking over after a half-mile in 45.33, but could not turn back the rally of Tivis, who prevailed by 1 1/2-lengths.
She avenged that lone defeat with a 1 1/2-length score in her seasonal debut in an eventful six-furlong open-company allowance under regular rider Chelsey Keiser at Thistledown in which Tivis settled for third.
“They loaded her last and she never got set and she went straight up in the air. She got herself left about five lengths,” Wolochuk said. “Then she went all the way to the outside rail. The jock lost her irons for about two jumps out of there and then she recovered and they won. No harm, no foul. The good ones overcome me, the rider and all the rest of it.”
Last out, Amadevil drew off to a 5 3/4-length score in the restricted Best of Ohio Diana on June 3 at Belterra.
Wolochuk will now look to saddle his first graded winner in just his third attempt as he sends his first horse to Saratoga. He said the start in the Honorable Miss is the culmination of a long-range plan.
“We mapped out a plan last year and have stuck to it. We thought she was immature as a 3-year-old and sent her down to Ocala for the winter,” Wolochuk said. “She’s really matured and filled out. I’m really happy with where she is. Training wise, she’s better now than she’s ever been.”
Jose Ortiz picks up the mount from post 3 on Wednesday and Wolochuk said he expects a prominent trip for Amadevil [117 pounds], but will leave it in the hands of the talented rider, who recently earned his second ESPY as Best Jockey.
“Hopefully, we can hit the board and get her graded-stakes placed for the value of the broodmare,” Wolochuk said. “We expect a good effort but at the end of the day as long as she comes back healthy, that’s all we care about.”
Bred in Ohio by Imagine, Amadevil is out of the Pulpit mare Preachette.
The Honorable Miss is slated as Race 4 on Wednesday’s 10-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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Photo: Bella Sofia grabbing Grade 1 glory in last year’s Test at Saratoga (NYRA/Coglianese)