Sweet Melania, off since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, made an impressive 3-year-old debut Saturday.
The American Pharoah filly went gate-to-wire over the lawn at Belmont Park, taking the Grade 3, $150,000 Wonder Again Stakes.
Sweet Melania raced six times as a 2-year-old, winning Keeneland’s Jessamine Stakes (G2) in October and running third in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park a month later. Trainer Todd Pletcher put the filly back to work in April, with the one-mile Wonder Again her sophomore bow.
"We planned on giving her a little time off after the Breeders' Cup and things went kind of crazy for a while," Pletcher said. "We didn't know where she would come back. We knew a distance like a mile was what we were looking for, so when this race came out, we pointed towards this."
Off as the 6-5 favorite, Sweet Melania got out to a lead under jockey Jose Ortiz and set comfortable fractions of :24.15 and :47.62. Once in the stretch, she drew away to cover the mile in 1:34.23.
Sweet Melania returned $4.60 in winning the five-filly Wonder Again. Highland Glory – sporting the same jockey (Manny Franco) and trainer (Barclay Tagg) as Belmont Stakes favorite Tiz the Law – got up for second ahead of third-place Antoinette.
Sweet Melania is back! The American Pharoah filly was third to Sharing at the @BreedersCup when last seen, and she returns victorious for @jose93_ortiz and @PletcherRacing in the Wonder Again Stakes! pic.twitter.com/T75vVDz9x9— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) June 20, 2020
“I felt good about the way she’d been training coming off the layoff,” said Pletcher, who’ll saddle Dr Post and Farmington Road in the Belmont. “It looked like she had a little bit of a pace advantage getting to a nice, comfortable lead. Jose did a great job of rationing it out and she finished up extremely well.”
Lawana and Robert Low campaign Sweet Melania, a Kentucky-bred filly who sold for $600,000 in 2018 as a yearling. Ortiz earned a second straight Wonder Again victory after taking the race last year with Cambier Parc.