The following appeared in The Racing Biz December 28 and was written by Ted Black. Gin Talking Stakes winner Bella Aurora was bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm.
On the final stakes card of 2019 at Laurel Park, a pair of stakes events for two-year-olds offered a possible glimpse into the future.
The two winners arrived via different paths, but they took the same route to winner’s circle — the overland route.
In the $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes for two-year-old fillies traveling seven furlongs, an event that appeared wide open on paper, Bella Aurora and jockey Julian Pimentel rallied from the rear of the field as the 7-2 third choice to score by a length over favored Ankle Monitor in 1:24.24 on a fast main track.
A Virginia-bred daughter of Carpe Diem trained by Michael Trombetta for owner Country Life Farm, Bella Aurura notched her first stakes triumph, her second straight score and third win in six starts overall to push her career earnings past $140,000.
“She had been training really well, and we had plenty of time to get her ready for this race,” Trombetta said. “We thought she was going to be a turf horse, but she trained so well on the dirt that we figured we try her on it last time and she won [an allowance race] easily, so we thought to come back in here. Julian fits her like a glove. He’s so been patient aboard her every start.”
Pimentel has been aboard Bella Aurora for all six of her starts, the first four of which were on the grass. She broke her maiden on the turf in her second start against maiden special weight company then finished second and third in a pair of stakes on the grass. But she made her main track debut early last month and scored by three lengths in a one-mile allowance after being stalled behind horses at the top of the lane.
That gave her connections a hint of what to expect next.
In the Gin Talking, Pimentel saved some ground early before tipping wide entering the lane for clear running room.
“She’s always been one of those fillies that relaxes early and makes one big run at the end,” Pimentel said. “Today she stayed well off the pace and then came with her usual rally. Turning for home, I knew that I had a lot of horse underneath me.”
Country Life Farm went to $87,000 at last fall’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic fall yearling sale to obtain Bella Aurora, who was bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm. Her victory in the Gin Talking also marked the first stakes win of the year for Country Life.
“We’ve always been really high on this filly, but initially we thought she would only do well on the turf,” Pons said. “But Mike [Trombetta] said she trained so well on the dirt that he wanted to try her on the dirt last time and she ran really well… It’s a great win for the Farm because this was our first stakes win all year. We have some small investors who love being a part of it, especially now that things are really looking up in Maryland.”
In the $100,000 Heft Stakes for two-year-olds, Monday Morning Qb (Jorge Vargas, Jr.) bided his time from just off the pace through the early stages, surged to command three-wide at the head of the lane then held safe Georgia-bred New Commission for a half-length score while getting the seven furlongs in 1:23.46.
“He spiked a fever prior to his last start, but luckily the grooms were there and they caught it, so we didn’t ship down for the last stake,” trainer Robert E. Reid, Jr. said of the Maryland-bred son of Imagining, who had been entered in but scratched from the Maryland Juvenile Futurity three weeks prior.
“He’s usually then type of horse that eats up, but the groom noticed that he was off his feed,” Reid added. “It only lasted a few days, but we did what was best by hm and decided not to come down. But we always thought this horse would like a little more distance. I think he might even like running on the grass.”
In his two starts at Parx, the most recent of which he had won, Monday Morning Qb had jockey Frankie Pennington in the irons. But on Saturday afternoon Vargas climbed aboard him for the first time and quickly realized how much horse he had underneath him when the field entered the starting gate. Monday Morning Qb notched his second win in three starts overall and more than doubled his career earnings past $100,00.
“He seemed really headstrong at the start, but then he relaxed right away for me,” Vargas said. “He broke well but then he just settled down for me. When he moved up alongside the leaders turning for home he was going easily. He finished up pretty good. I think he definitely wants to go longer.”