Top 2019 Virginia-Owned Horse Bellafina Returns to Winners Circle At Santa Anita

The following appeared in May 17 and was written by Meredith Daugherty. Bellafina, who won the Desert Stormer Stakes, earned Top Virginia-Owned Horse honors in 2019. The Kentucky-bred filly is co-owned by Virginia businessman Kaleem Shah who previously won this category in 2015 with Dortmund. Bellafina bankrolled $858,725 last year from a stellar campaign that included three stakes wins at Santa Anita — the Grade 2 Santa Ynez and Las Virgenes, and the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks. In 10 starts at California tracks — that include Del Mar and Los Alamitos as well — she has 7 wins and three runner-up finishes. 

Returning to the winner’s circle for the first time in over a year, Bellafina drew away in deep stretch to claim the $101,000 Desert Stormer Stakes (G3) May 17 at Santa Anita Park.

The favorite in a field of seven older fillies and mares, Bellafina broke from the gate just a touch slow under jockey Flavien Prat. Fighting Mad and jockey Drayden Van Dyke went straight to the lead, followed closely by Artistic Diva, who pressed the leader through an opening quarter-mile in :21.38.

Bellafina settled well back in third, allowing the frontrunners plenty of room to duel it out along the backstretch. Fighting Mad maintained a head advantage over Artistic Diva as the half-mile went in :44.47.

Bellafina and jockey Flavien Prat win the Grade III, $100,000 Desert Stormer Stakes, Sunday, May 17, 2020 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA.

Turning for home, the pair came under threat from Bellafina, who ranged up three wide to draw even at the top of the stretch. Spurred home by Prat’s left-hand urging, Bellafina opened up through midstretch and crossed the wire one length clear.

The final time for the six-furlong sprint on a fast track was 1:09.85. The victory was the fifth of the day for Prat.

“This is pretty cool,” said Prat. “She broke well and she put me in a good spot and we had those two fillies (Fighting Mad and Artistic Diva) as a target. At the quarter pole, we angled out and she did the rest. It’s great to be back home with this filly, she loves it here. I won five in one day at Del Mar last summer, but never here at Santa Anita.”

Hang a Star chased the pack near the rear of the field through much of the race before kicking home between rivals in the stretch to take second. Fighting Mad held on to cross the wire in third but was disqualified to fourth following a steward’s inquiry into a claim of interference at the start. Mother Mother, Artistic Diva, Tomlin, and First Star completed the order of finish.

“It unfolded pretty much as we expected,” trainer Simon Callaghan said. “We had decent speed, and Flavien had her in a great position to stalk and gave us a really good performance. It shows how much she loves Santa Anita, and we’re glad to get her back in the winner’s circle.”

Owned in partnership by Kaleem Shah, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, Bellafina improved her record to 7-3-1 from 15 starts with $1,512,975 in earnings. She made her season debut April 25 at Oaklawn Park in the Carousel Stakes where she finished fourth. Her previous victory came in April 2019 when she took the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) at Santa Anita.

Bellafina was bred in Kentucky by JSM Equine out of the Malibu Moon mare Akron Moon. The daughter of Quality Road was purchased by Shah under the name K S I for $800,000 from the consignment of Wavertree Stables to The Gulfstream Sale, Fasig-Tipton’s March sale of 2-year-olds in training.