Kentucky Oaks Favorite Bellafina, Virginia-Owned, Takes To The Track

The following appeared in and was written by Evan Hammonds. Favored Bellafina is 2-1 early, and the Kentucky-bred is owned by Northern Virginia businessman Kaleem Shah. Out for a Spin, bred in Virginia by the William Backer Revocable Estate, is 15-1 and will depart from the rail. The $1,250,000 Longines Kentucky Oaks will go to post at 6:12 PM Friday May 3rd with a field of 14. Wagering is available at any VA-Horseplay OTB, at Colonial Downs in New Kent, at the VTA Awards ceremony at Great Meadow and on line at,, and

Kaleem Shah’s Bellafina, the 2-1 morning line favorite for the May 3 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), has been conspicuous by her absence in Louisville, but arrived safely April 29 and visited the track April 30 for her first look at the Twin Spires since last November.

Bellafina gallops at Churchill Downs on April 30th. Photo by Kurtis Coady.

The supersized daughter of Quality Road  is a perfect four-for-four at her home base of Santa Anita Park, so trainer Simon Callaghan opted to keep her there for training for as long as possible. Her last published workout was April 26 at Santa Anita where she fired off five furlongs in 1:01. That work was preceded by a half-mile in a bullet :48 April 19, also at Santa Anita.

Bellafina opened the season with three straight graded stakes wins at Santa Anita, including the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) April 6.

“It was the trainer and owner’s decision (to prepare at Santa Anita),” said assistant Carlos Santamaria Tuesday outside Churchill Barn 42. “We know she trains a lot better at home in California. We decided to keep her there as long as possible and to come in here late just for the race.”

As for her first spring outing at Churchill Downs, Santamaria reported: “We stood her for a few minutes by the three-quarter pole and then we walked her up to the wire and we let her gallop for a mile and a quarter at a pretty easy pace. It was her first day here.

Bellafina gets a bath after her April 30th jog at Churchill. Photo by Kurtis Coady.

“She’s doing really, really well. She looks like she’s enjoying it. She looked around a little bit. She’ll gallop here again tomorrow.”

Callaghan arrives later Tuesday and will oversee the filly’s progress May 1.

Bellafina was bred in Kentucky by Joe Minor’s JSM Equine and is out of the Malibu Moon  mare Akron Moon. Bred by Robert “Shel” Evans, Akron Moon was stakes-placed on the turf in Canada while with trainer Mark Frostad. Minor purchased her, carrying Bellafina, for $175,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November sale from Sweezey & Partners. Carrying a full sibling, she RNA’d for $2.7 million last fall at Fasg-Tipton’s The November Sale.

A $220,000 RNA at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale, Bellafina was put into training and later offered at the 2018 The Gulfstream Sale, Fasig-Tipton’s select sale of 2-year-olds in training, where Shah purchased her for $800,000. 

Second in her debut, she rattled off three wins in graded company last summer, scoring in Del Mar‘s Sorrento Stakes (G2), the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (G1), and Santa Anita’s Chandelier Stakes (G1). The 9-5 favorite for the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Bellafina failed to fire, finishing fourth behind fellow Oaks starters Jaywalk and Restless Rider.

Bellafina is shown during her April 30th gallop at Churchill. Photo by Kurtis Coady.

Santamaria, who is battling kidney issues, wasn’t at the Breeders’ Cup, but offered: “It just wasn’t her day. We don’t know what happened, but she was good when she got back home.”

Given some time, Bellafina has run the table at 3 with scores in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (G2), the one-mile Las Virgenes Stakes (G2), and the Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.

“She’s more mature; she’s bigger,” Santamaria said. “Mentally, she’s a lot more focused. She’s more serious about her training and running. She just looks better.

“She’s a filly that knows what spot she needs to be in during a race. She doesn’t need to be in the front. She can break and sit, and run when she wants to. We’re confident with her.”2 Comments