Grade 1 winner Bella Sofia handles elders in Gallant Bloom

Grade 1 winner Bella Sofia handles elders in Gallant Bloom
Photo: Joe Labozzetta/NYRA

One day after talented 3-year-old Life Is Good bested a compact field of elders in the Grade 2 Kelso as the heavy favorite, Grade 1-winning sophomore Bella Sofia did the same against older fillies and mares with a wire-to-wire performance as the 2-5 betting choice in Sunday’s 28th running of the $250,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) at 6½ furlongs over the Belmont Park main track.

Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, Bella Sofia entered the Gallant Bloom off a 4½-length triumph in the Test (G1) on Aug. 7 at Saratoga, where she displayed stalking tactics. The dark bay or brown daughter of Awesome Patriot went back to the front-running style that she flaunted in her maiden and allowance conquests at Belmont this summer, strolling home to a 3½-length victory.

Breaking from the inside, Bella Sofia was sent to the front by jockey Luis Saez and commanded opening fractions of 22.46 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.40 for the half-mile over the fast main track. Lady Rocket, who stumbled leaving the gate, kept close company in second.

Just past the quarter pole, Saez turned up the tempo aboard Bella Sofia, who opened four lengths on Lady Rocket. Never in doubt in the stretch run, Saez never went to the stick and peeked back past the eighth pole, wrapping up on the filly in the final furlong to an in-hand score in a final time of 1:15.69.

Saez swept both stakes on Sunday’s program at Belmont, piloting a winning trip aboard Shipsational in the Bertram F. Bongard five races earlier. Having ridden Bella Sofia to victory in three of her four wins, Saez said he knew she breathed a different kind of air since her first start.

“She’s very special,” said Saez, who picked up his fourth stakes win of the meet. “From day one when I rode her and broke her maiden here, she gave me a feeling she’s a Grade 1 winner. In the Test, she proved she can really run and today was easy for her. She finished up strong and did it easy. I had a lot of horse.”

Sporting a ledger of 5: 4-1-0, Bella Sofia’s only defeat took place in the June 6 Jersey Girl at Belmont, where she stumbled leaving the gate and finished second beaten a length to Australasia. She has captured her four lifetime wins by a combined 25½ lengths.

“Luis and I talked before the race and if someone else wanted the lead we’d let them go, but she’s so quick out of the gate,” Rodriguez said. “The one time we got beat, she stumbled out of the gate bad. I don’t think she necessarily needs to be on the lead, but when you have this type of horse you have to take advantage of it.”

Lady Rocket garnered black type in her first start at graded stakes level finishing second, nine lengths to the better of Lake Avenue, who earned a fourth graded stakes placing this season.

Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard Lady Rocket, said the bad break hampered his filly’s chances.

“She stumbled bad out of there,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “I had to use her a little bit and after that she ran a good race.”

Don’t Call Me Mary completed the order of finish. Honor Way was scratched.

Bella Sofia, who returned $2.80 for a $2 win wager, is owned by Michael Imperio, Medallion Racing, Sofia Soares, Vincent Scuderi, and Parkland Thoroughbreds. She cashed $137,500 putting her lifetime earnings past the half-million-dollar mark at $542,600.

Bred in Kentucky by Two Tone Farms, Bella Sofia is out of the dual stakes-placed Consolidator mare Love Contract. She was bought for $20,000 from the 2020 OBS July Sale, where she was consigned by Grassroots Training and Sales.

Live racing returns Thursday at Belmont Park with a 9-race card. First post is 2:05 p.m. EDT.

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