Never worse than second in seven career starts, Bella Viaggia
will be back to defend her title in Saturday’s $100,000 California Distaff Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. The Mike Puype-trained filly by Good Journey seeks her fifth win overall and heads a field of eight California-bred fillies and mares aged three and up.
Second with Gary Stevens in the one mile turf Solana Beach Handicap Aug. 18, Bella Viaggia won the $100,000 Cal Cup Distaff Handicap a year ago in her only try down the hill. Based at Betfair Hollywood Park, she’ll be ridden for the second time by Stevens on Saturday.
Owned by SLO Racing Stable, Bella Viaggia’s overall mark stands at 7-4-3-0, with earnings of $249,360.
Scratched from the rail out of Saturday’s L.A. Woman Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track, multiple stakes winner Ismene will break from the outside Saturday in her second career try down the hill.
Trained by Bill Spawr, and owned by her breeder, Stephen Ferraro, Ismene, a 4-year-old filly by Tribal Rule, showed great promise at two, winning all three of her starts which included the $80,000 Anoakia Stakes in Oct. 2011, and the $100,000 California Breeders Champion Stakes on Dec. 26, 2011.
Following her Cal Breeders triumph, Ismene went to the sidelines and didn’t resurface until Jan. 25 of this year. Although winless in five tries this year, Ismene has three seconds, including her most recent effort, a second-condition allowance race going one mile at Del Mar on Aug. 25.
Quick from the gate, Ismene was second in her lone hillside turf try, the $100,000 Irish O’Brien Stakes March 17. Ridden by Gary Stevens at Del Mar, she’ll cut back in distance Saturday as she draws an outside post and will be reunited with Mike Smith.
Ismene, who drilled six furlongs at Santa Anita on Sunday in a bullet 1:12.20, is 8-3-3-0, with earnings of $216,990.
In a race with what appears to be plenty of early lick, the Mike Pender-conditioned Tasty Treat could be the quickest of the quick. A gate to wire winner of the five furlong turf Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 9, she is in search of her third consecutive turf sprint win with Rafael Bejarano.
Owned by Cunningham Stable, the 4-year-old filly by Roar has career earnings of 333,874. With a win and a second from three tries down the hill, Tasty Treat is 17-7-4-1 overall.
The complete field for the California Distaff Handicap, to be run as the seventh on a 10-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Bella Viaggia, Gary Stevens, 119; Dancingtothestars, Mario Gutierrez, 120; Mia Lady, Victor Espinoza, 112; Qiaona, Corey Nakatani, 116; Toomanytomatoes, Agapito Delgadillo, 115; Tasty Treat, Rafael Bejarano, 120; Pahiatua, Joe Talamo, 115, and Ismene, Mike Smith, 119.