With racing ceased in much of the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, some stakes at Oaklawn Park have been attracting the strongest renewals in their histories. Saturday’s $150,000 Carousel appears to be no exception as Grade 1 veterans Bellafina and Mia Mischief will bookend a field of eight fillies and mares in the starting gate.
A three-time Grade 1 winner, Bellafina shortens up to 6 furlongs for the first time since taking the 2018 Sorrento (G2) in her juvenile season. After a disappointing run in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) last spring, the focus has been mostly on one-turn races for the daughter of Quality Road.
Although she hasn’t won in five starts over the past 12 months, Bellafina was a fast-closing second to eventual champion Covfefe in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) two back, and last time placed in the La Brea (G1) over the same 7-furlong trip at Santa Anita.
Unlike Bellafina, Mia Mischief has previous experience at Oaklawn. Although second in last year’s edition of the Carousel, she’s won three times and placed twice in Hot Springs. Mia Mischief rebounded from that Carousel loss to win the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs and then beat Covfefe in the Roxelana S.
The generally speedy Amy’s Challenge showed a different dimension when rallying from slightly off the pace to finish a neck behind Midnight Fantasy in the Feb 29. Spring Fever S. going 5 1/2 furlongs. A reversion to older tactics can make her the one to catch.
Third in the Spring Fever was What a Fox, previously victorious in a pair of allowances earlier in the meet. Riding a three-race win streak, from a maiden through the allowance ranks, is the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Sunny Dale, a threat to Amy’s Challenge for early supremacy.
The field is completed by Lady Suebee and Classy Act.