Bella Sofia will make her anticipated 4-year-old debut in a familiar place, returning to the track where she broke her maiden last year when competing as part of a five-horse field in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Vagrancy for fillies and mares 4 -years-old and up sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on Belmont Park’s main track.
The 72nd running of the Vagrancy, slated as Race 3, is one of five graded stakes on Saturday’s 11-race card, led by the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o’ War for 4-year-olds and up going 1 3/8 miles on the turf; the Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan, the traditional Belmont prep for the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, with sophomores going 1 1/8 miles on Big Sandy; the Grade 3, $150,000 Beaugay for older fillies and mares contesting 1 1/16 miles on the turf; and the Grade 3, $150,000 Runhappy for 4-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs on the main track.
Bella Sofia will be making her first appearance since running fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Del Mar. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said the Vagrancy will hopefully be the start of another campaign that culminates in a Breeders’ Cup appearance, with this year’s edition held at Keeneland from November 4-5.
“We’re just hoping she shows the same ability coming out of this race that she showed last year,” Rodriguez said.
Unraced as a juvenile, Bella Sofia made her debut one year ago at Belmont, posting an 11 1/4-length victory in a six-furlong sprint in May 2021 before stepping up in class and running second, by a length, to Australasia in the Jersey Girl on June 6 at the same distance.
After another impressive score against older allowance company, recording a 6 1/2-length win, in July at Belmont, Bella Sofia opened eyes with a 4 1/4-length romp in the G1 Longines Test in August at historic Saratoga Race Course and extended her winning streak to three in a row with a 3 1/2-length win going gate-to-wire in the G2 Gallant Bloom against older company at the Vagrancy distance in September at Belmont. She earned a personal-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.
Following her Breeders’ Cup effort in California, Bella Sofia was given a respite and will look to make her seasonal debut a strong one, drawing post 5 and carrying 123 pounds with Luis Saez aboard.
Owned by Michael Imperio, Vincent Scuderi, Sofia Soares, Gabrielle Farm, Mazel Stable Partners, Matthew Mercuio, Medallion Racing, Parkland Thoroughbreds and Barry Fowler, Bella Sofia is 3-1-0 in four career starts at Belmont.
“We’re just trying to get her back and see if she is the same filly as last year,” Rodriguez said. “We thought the key was to get her started back here at Belmont. She’s been training very good. She looks bigger and stronger, so we just hope she’s at least the same – and hopefully a little better – than last year.”
Team D and Madaket Stables’ Miss Brazil returned off her own long layoff last out, besting optional claimers on April 22 in a six-furlong sprint at Aqueduct Racetrack for trainer Tony Dutrow.
The 4-year-old Palace Malice bay, who ran third in the Jersey Girl despite bursting through the front of the gate and needed to be re-loaded, registered a second-place finish to Grade 1 winner Search Results in the 2021 Busher Invitational and won last year’s Ruthless.
After running fifth in the G3 Victory Ride in July at Belmont, Dutrow gave Miss Brazil time off to deal with physical issues. But her conditioner said her first race back was important as she looks to kick off her new campaign, earning a 90 Beyer and marking the fifth time in eight career starts she reached that threshold.
“We were a little late getting to that last race. I was hoping it would have been seven or eight days earlier, but at least it happened,” Dutrow said. “We were confident that Miss Brazil was going to run well; she had been training excellent. She’s been excellent since the race, too. Outside of coming back on short rest off such a long layoff, I feel very good about how she is and we’re going to hopefully run well in a graded race.
“If she runs like she’s capable, she should fit in with the field,” he added.
Miss Brazil drew post 4 in carrying 117 pounds with Eric Cancel in the irons. Dutrow said he’s been impressed with how Miss Brazil has improved significantly.
“She’s gotten a little bigger and a little stronger and filled out the way you’d expect,” Dutrow said. “We’re very happy with her. Her ankles were nagging her in her 3-year-old year, but that’s not the case this year. She got a little tired there at the end, but she seems to be the way we want her heading into this race.”
Sanford and Irwin Goldfarb and Nice Guys Stables’ New York-bred Kept Waiting made a strong account of herself in her graded stakes debut, finishing second to Glass Ceiling in the G3 Distaff going seven furlongs on April 9 at the Big A for trainer Robert Falcone , Jr. The effort continued an upward career trajectory for the 5-year-old Broken Vow mare, who competed in her first stakes in her 11th career start by winning the Broadway against fellow state-breds by 5 1/2 lengths over a sloppy and sealed Aqueduct track in February prior to the Distaff.
Kept Waiting, 5-4-1 in 12 career starts, was bred in the Empire State by John Lauriello. She will carry 118 pounds in breaking from post 3 in tandem with jockey Kendrick Carmouche.
Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ Frank’s Rockette was second in her first start of 2022 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott when finishing as the runner up to Acting Out in the Carousel on April 2 at Oaklawn Park. That marked her first start since capping 2021 with a strong second in the G3 Sugar Swirl in December at Gulfstream Park.
Frank’s Rockette boasts a record of 3-2-1-0 at Belmont, including a runner-up effort in the G1 Frizette as a juvenile and sophomore wins in the G3 Victory Ride and G2 Gallant Bloom Handicap.
The 5-year-old Into Mischief mare, who will carry 120 pounds, will have Flavien Prat aboard from post 2.
Flying P Stable’s Assertive Style, claimed for $80,000 out of a second-place finish in a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint in March at Fair Grounds, will return to the dirt and make her first start for conditioner Tom Morley.
Assertive Style, a five-time winner from 16 starts, will make her first graded stakes appearance in her 17th start and will be returning to a familiar surface, with 13 of her previous starts coming on the main track. Carrying 116 pounds, the 4-year-old Nyquist filly will have Hall of Famer Javier Castellano’s services from the inside post.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.