Edward Cox Jr.'s Naples Bay rallied to the lead in midstretch and easily withstood the late rally of favored Dealbata in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Noble Damsel Stakes at Belmont Park, registering her first stakes victory with a 1 1/2-length decision. She was overlooked at 13-1 odds among nine rivals, returning payouts of $28, $10.20 and $5.90, and Jose Lezcano had the mount for trainer Christophe Clement.
By leading sire Giant's Causeway, Naples Bay possesses a regal pedigree. The four-year-old is out of the stakes-winning Bailjumper mare Cappucino Bay, making her a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner and renowned sire Medaglia d' Oro, and Naples Bay sold for $350,000 as a weanling at the 2008 Keeneland November sale. The dark bay found little success from her first four stakes attempts, her lone placing coming as a third in last year's Dauphin Miss at Penn National, but the improving filly entered the Noble Damsel off a 4 1/4-length allowance thrashing at Monmouth Park and has now earned $210,170 from a 10-4-1-1 career record.
"I thought she was very impressive in the allowance at Monmouth, and I've got an owner (Edward Cox) who's got a very strong character," Clement said. "More often than not he's right, and he told me to think about this race and he was absolutely right. She's a bit tougher now (as a four-year-old), and also we got to know the filly better. We slightly under-train her now compared to what we used to do. She got better, without a doubt, with age."
Naples Bay stalked in third as Silver Screamer showed the way early on a quick pace, establishing an opening quarter-mile in :23 2/5. The front-runner continued to wing along, reaching the half-mile mark in a demanding :46 with a three-length advantage over Federation in second. It was another three lengths back to Naples Bay, who was rating just off the rail in the spread-out field.
Silver Screamer continued to lead the way into the stretch, reaching the three-quarters mark in 1:10, but Naples Bay had been guided to the outside for clear sailing and was beginning to uncork her best stride. She blew past the pacesetter inside the eighth pole and was never seriously threatened as Dealbata came flying from off the pace belatedly.
Naples Bay completed a mile in 1:33 4/5 on the firm Widener turf.
"She broke good and just relaxed, and when I asked her she gave me good kick," Lezcano said. "I think she is a very nice filly."
Dealbata, the 7-5 favorite, wound up a half-length better than the 6-1 Silver Screamer in third. It was another two lengths back to Federation, who was followed under the wire by Kya One, La Cloche, Embarr, Law of the Range and Julie's Love.
Naples Bay was bred in Kentucky by Albert and Joyce Bell.
"It's a big deal, because she's a half-sister to Medaglia d'Oro, so she's very well-bred and she's a graded stakes winner," Clement said. "Mr. Cox has been in the game forever, and it's a wonderful win for him. He's been very loyal to the stable. I'm delighted. Let's enjoy that for a little bit, no (future) plans."