Breeders' Cup - At The Races

In profile: Bellafina

    Bellafina has already bagged a Grade 1 brace for California-based Englishman Simon Callaghan.


  • Trainer: Simon Callaghan
  • Likely Jockey: Flavien Prat
  • Owner: Kaleem Shah
  • Age & Breeding: 2-y-o f; Quality Road—Akron Moon (Malibu Moon)
  • Season Form Figures: 2111
  • Career Highlight: A brace of September Grade 1s: the Debutante and the Chandelier

By Peter Fornatale

Trainer Simon Callaghan may be familiar to readers and if he isn’t, his father probably is. Neville Callaghan, sire of Simon, trained for decades in the UK and had many good horses, the best known of which was Danehill Dancer. Simon relocated to the United States in 2010 to train a string of horses, largely supported by Michael Tabor, an old client of his father’s. In the last five years he’s established himself as a multiple Grade 1 winning trainer whose best horses have included Abel Tasman (before she was moved to Bob Baffert), American Gal, Moonshine Memories, Fashion Plate, and Taris.

His latest star is Bellafina, who comes to Churchill Downs having won three graded stakes on the bounce, with the distances increasing throughout the sequence. Her first race was the only one so far that she hasn’t won, but even that effort was very good. She was a solid second in a good time, many lengths over the expected speed figure (Katieleigh, who hasn’t run back as of this writing) par for the condition. She just had the misfortune of running into one better on the day. Her second start was an easy win with blinkers on against a Grade 2 field in the Sorrento at Del Mar. She earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure – her career best – and immediately looked like a Juvenile Fillies contender in the process.

The next test came at Del Mar in the Debutante, a race that three of the last six Juvenile Fillies competed in. It was an open-lengths win once again but her figure declined significantly. This was not a case of the added ground being an issue. She simply set a wickedly fast pace. While she was able to bottom out her competition, she and the rest of them crawled home as a result of the searching early gallop and the final time was unimpressive. It was an open question as to how she’d handle the stretch-out to the two-turn 1 1/16th miles in the Chandelier, a Win-and-You-re-In race for the Juvenile Fillies. Callaghan removed the blinkers, hoping to get his filly to relax. The move had the desired effect, she tracked the speed and blew the doors off what looked a very competitive field on paper. She earned an 89 and gave the impression she finished with something in hand, suggesting she might be capable of a faster figure still.

She is a deserving favorite for sure, though current prices don’t exactly get the blood pumping giving that there is quality company at the top of the market (especially Restless Rider and Jaywalk) and also the fact that this is a race that has been won by longshots in four of the five past runnings. Still, she’s another where you’d call her price fair and her spot in the market justified based on what we know right now.