March 24, 2023

Bellabel back with a bang in San Clemente

Bellabel wins the San Clemente at Del Mar (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Last seen landing her U.S. debut in style in the Jan. 2 Blue Norther S., Bellabel resumed triumphant in Saturday’s $203,500 San Clemente (G2) at Del Mar. The 3-1 favorite topped a Phil D’Amato trifecta with the 36.80-1 Sixteen Arches and the 7-2 Island of Love.

Bellabel was likely best in any event, but she enjoyed a dream run on the inside for Umberto Rispoli, while a few rivals were bothered in a messy stretch drive. The Irish import was covered up just a few lengths behind the pace contested by Lady T and Lucky Girl, the two who would precipitate the stretch incident.

The speedy Lady T leveraged her rail draw to rattle off an opening quarter in :22.80 on the firm turf. But Lucky Girl moved up out wide on the clubhouse turn to force the issue. Lucky Girl was in front through the half in :46.80, Lady T came again to match strides, and Lucky Girl reasserted by the six-furlong mark in 1:11.09.

Lucky Girl spurted away into the stretch, leaving plenty of room on the inside. As Bellabel seized the opportunity to burst through, Lucky Girl shifted out further beneath Joe Bravo. She appeared to be clear of Lady T while wandering across her path, but Lady T (with Victor Espinoza up) reacted by swerving to her right. A chain reaction ensued as Tezzaray was taken up and forced into Gem Mine, who consequently barged into Helens Well.

Island of Love was just launching her rally widest of all, on the flank of stablemate Helens Well, and found herself floated even wider. Amid the fracas, Island of Love’s jockey, Juan Hernandez, had to pause, look to his left, and make a rapid assessment before he could ask his mount for more. She responded, but the interruption arguably cost her a better placing. Island of Love got up for third, a neck shy of runner-up Sixteen Arches, who like Bellabel charted an inside course.

As soon as Bellabel crossed the wire a handy two-length winner in 1:35.32 for the mile, the stewards posted the inquiry sign. The focus was on Lady T and Lucky Girl, the respective fourth and fifth, who were followed home by Gem Mine, Countess Rosina, Anthonys Cleopatra, Helens Well, Tezzaray, Mise Le Meas, and Gold Dragon Queen.

In a majority decision, Lucky Girl was deemed responsible for the cascade of interference and disqualified. According to the announcement by track announcer Trevor Denman, Lucky Girl was demoted to 10th. That would put her one spot behind the hampered Tezzaray. The chart, however, indicates that Lucky Girl was officially placed ninth, which wouldn’t reflect the impact on Tezzaray.

The one clear result of the San Clemente was that Bellabel will be the leading local hope in the Aug. 20 Del Mar Oaks (G1). Rispoli said in the postrace interview with Brad Free that the filly will improve quite a bit from this tune-up.

D’Amato also teamed up with Rispoli to win Friday’s Oceanside S. with Balnikhov, who is on a similar trajectory awaiting the Sept. 3 Del Mar Derby (G2).

“We got a nice trip up the rail,” D’Amato said of Bellabel. “She showed her class late. They were jostling all around there; luckily she got a smooth trip on the inside and kept going.

“I give him (Rispoli) a general idea about the race but at the end of day, Umberto’s going to do what Umberto wants to do. It’s been working out so we’ll just roll with it. We’ll run her next in the Del Mar Oaks.”

Racing for Benowitz Family Trust, CYBT, Michael Nentwig, and Ray Pagano, Bellabel has earned $195,405 from her 7-3-1-1 line. The Belardo filly started her career with Jessica Harrington in Ireland, where she scored her first win in a Naas handicap last September. That turned out to be her final outing in her homeland.

Bellabel was bred by Fergus Cousins in the Emerald Isle and sold for $40,280 as a December yearling at Tattersalls. Out of the Cape Cross mare Fashion Line, the bay hails from the immediate family of Group 2 winner Princess Yaiza.