Gary A. Tanaka's Noble Stella led at all calls over a soft turf course Saturday afternoon then dug in to hold off late-charging Angara to win the $182,000 New York Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Belmont Park inner turf course by a neck.On a day when torrential showers seemed to hit at least once an hour, the New York BC Handicap remained on Belmont Park's inner turf course, which had gone from yielding to soft during the afternoon.
Noble Stella, a 5-year-old German-bred daughter of Monsun, took the lead under jockey Mike Smith, breaking from the outside. Smith kept Noble Stella out on the course to set fractions of :26.13, :52.66, 1:18.58, and 1:43.67. When he straightened for the run home, Smith had to work hard on his mount with left-handed urging.Angara, who broke from the rail, came with a wide run late under Belmont Stakes (gr. I) hero Fernando Jara, but Noble Stella was resolute while finishing in a time of 2:08.26. Noble Stella was coming off a second-place finish under Smith, one length behind Honey Ryder after setting the pace in the 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT) over a firm Belmont inner course May 27. "She's really doing well," Smith said. "Her connections thought she was doing even better than she was in the Sheepshead. I broke, and I thought the outside was the better place to be; she handled the (soft) going really, really well. Every time I got after her, she just kept pushing herself forward and just stayed there."It was the seventh win in 24 career starts for Noble Stella, who has banked $568,482. With two wins, a second, and two thirds in five graded stakes races this year -- and earnings of $214,088 -- she continues to impress her Canadian trainer, Roger Attfield."She's just as genuine as the day is long," he said by phone from Woodbine. "If she gets beat, it's because a better horse beat her. She's really thrived over the last couple of months. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I might run her back in the Dance Smartly (Can-II) at Woodbine." The $300,000 Dance Smartly is at nine furlongs on turf July 15.The fourth choice in the field of seven, Noble Stella paid $11.20, $5.70, and $3. The Great Britain-bred Angara returned $4.50 and $3. It was 1 1/4 lengths back to 19-10 choice Argentina ($2.50) and Edgar Prado, third without excuse.The Irish-bred Argentina, favored in all four of her U.S. starts in top company for trainer Bobby Frankel and Wildenstein Stable, is yet to win. Asi Siempre, Omeya, Smart N Classy, and Dynamite Lass followed her. Charmsil was scratched.(Chart, Equibase)