Millionaire Grade 1 winner Bellafina completed major preparations for the $125,000 Carousel Stakes for older female sprinters April 25 by working a sharp half-mile over a fast track Saturday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Simon Callaghan.
Breezing on a sunny, cool morning immediately after the surface renovation break, Bellafina went in :47.80 under Joe Talamo. Clockers caught the 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road with a final quarter-mile of :23.60 and galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:00.20.
“Unbelievable,” Talamo said after getting on Bellafina for the first time. “Absolutely skipped over the track this morning.”
Bellafina had been galloping since being flown Tuesday to Arkansas from her Southern California base.
Bellafina hasn’t started since finishing second in the $300,000 La Brea Stakes (G1) Dec. 28 at Santa Anita. Earlier in 2019, Bellafina won the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) at Santa Anita, $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita and the $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. She also finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length by Covfefe, in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
“Believe me, I’ve watched her run quite a few times out there in California,” said Talamo, previously based in Southern California. “She’s nice, really nice.”
Also working Saturday morning toward the Carousel was another millionaire Grade 1 winner, Mia Mischief, for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Mia Mischief breezed a half-mile in :49.20.
Other Saturday workers included Eclipse Award winner British Idiom and a trio of 2020 Oaklawn stakes winners – Shedaresthedevil, Silver Prospector and Night Ops.
British Idiom covered a half-mile in :48 for trainer Brad Cox, while stablemate Shedaresthedevil went 5 furlongs in :59. Shedaresthedevil won the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 7 in her last start. British Idiom, the country’s champion 2-year-old filly of 2019, and Shedaresthedevil are pointing for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) May 1.
Shedaresthedevil shared the 5-furlong bullet with Silver Prospector, an Asmussen trainee who is pointing for the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) May 2. Silver Prospector won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17.
Night Ops worked a half-mile in :47.40 for Cox in advance of the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses May 2. Night Ops won the $350,000 Essex Handicap March 14.
Trainer Will VanMeter put an exclamation point on his most successful Oaklawn meeting to date when he finished 1-2 in Friday’s $100,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes.
Sekani and The Mary Rose – both homebreds for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs – were separated by 1 ½ lengths in the 6-furlong race for Arkansas-bred 3-year-old fillies.
Sekani ($6.60) represented the first local stakes victory for VanMeter, 36, a former assistant under Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas who saddled first career winner March 14, 2014, at Oaklawn (Pearl Turn). VanMeter had saddled eight winners from just 28 starters through Friday. His previous career high for victories in Hot Springs was five (2017 and 2018).
“If you’ll grade us, we’ve had some rough meets down here, we’ve had some good meets,” VanMeter said. “It feels good have to have – quote, unquote – a great meet. We love what we do. We’re just as happy when we win races. When we lose them, we show up here and try to work hard and continue to keep doing the same thing, no matter what. Credit to our owners for sticking with us through bad meets and giving us an opportunity to bring down some good horses this year.”
VanMeter has been maneuvering 10-13 horses at the meeting, the bulk for Anthony, among the most successful owners in Oaklawn history. VanMeter has excelled with young horses, as six had broken their maidens since the meet began Jan. 24. That list includes Sekani, The Mary Rose and Turnstone, another Anthony homebred, and Lucky Betty and Edgemont Road in special weights company. Lucky Betty, a 3-year-old daughter of Munnings, is owned by a new client, Dennis Park of Joplin, Mo., while VanMeter and five of his first cousins campaign Edgemont Road, a 4-year-old son of Speightstown.
“My great grandfather lived on Edgemont Road in Maysville, Ky.,” VanMeter said. “We still have a lot family that live there.”
VanMeter and Anthony (Shortleaf Stable) have been strong supporters of Oaklawn’s “Lasix-free Bonus Program,” which was introduced at the 2015 meeting. The first American track to offer the incentive, the program provides a 10 percent bonus to the winner’s share of the purse. Sekani became the first Lasix-free stakes winner under the program, earning an additional $6,000. VanMeter (trainer) and Anthony (owner) each have a record nine Lasix-free victories under the program.
Sekani raced without Lasix in her first two career starts, including a 10-length maiden score Feb. 17, and was taken off the medication Friday after finishing fourth in her prior start against older state-bred allowance runners March 6.
“I think the main thing was representing that Arkansas-breds can run and win Lasix-free,” VanMeter said.
VanMeter has six career stakes victories. His first came for Anthony in the $100,000 Hanshin Cup (G3) in 2016 at Arlington Park (Trace Creek).
VanMeter, who has 15 permanent stalls in Keeneland’s Rice Road barn area, is the son of prominent Kentucky sales consignor/equine veterinarian/owner Tom VanMeter.
Tom VanMeter foaled American Pharoah, who won Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby before sweeping the Triple Crown in 2015.
Sekani ($6.60) represented the first career Oaklawn stakes victory for jockey Declan Cannon in Friday’s $100,000 Rainbow Miss for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred fillies. … Sky Promise worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 Saturday morning for trainer Robertino Diodoro in advance of the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses May 2. Sky Promise won the inaugural $125,000 Temperence Hill Stakes March 13 in his last start. … Diodoro said Saturday morning that one-eyed Hamazing Vision, a two-time winner at the meet, is pointing for the $165,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship for state-breds at 1 1/16 miles May 1. … K J’s Nobility worked 7 furlongs in 1:25 Saturday morning for trainer Cecil Borel in advance of the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship. K J’s Nobility won the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes for state-bred sprinters March 28 in his last start. … Trainer Mac Robertson said Saturday morning that he hopes to start 2019 Canterbury Park Horse of the Year Hot Shot Kid before the meet’s scheduled end, May 2. … Oaklawn track announcer Vic Stauffer turned 61 Saturday.