Undefeated Melhor Ainda made her first graded stakes appearance look easy, winning as the prohibitive favorite in the $111,200 Sands Point (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-old fillies Sunday on the Belmont Park turf.
Jockey John Velazquez roused the Bobby Frankel-trained Melhor Ainda coming off the far turn and the daughter of Pulpit
burst through an opening to soon lead, smoothly going on to record her fourth straight win while ridden out by 2 3/4 lengths. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event on firm going was 1:47 2/5.
T N T Stud owns the bay filly who has yet to be seriously challenged in her four starts, all on the turf. Sunday's purse, $66,720, boosted Melhor Ainda's earnings to $213,576.
Frankel said he would likely run her in the $750,000 American Oaks Invitational (gr. IT) for 3-year-old fillies at 10 furlongs on the turf at Hollywood Park on July 3.
Allowed to slide into a rail trip soon after breaking from her outside post position, she settled in behind the pacesetting My Typhoon, who was challenged on her outside by Paddy's Daisy through fractions of :24 2/5, :48 2/5 and 1:12 1/5. Moving up to third along the inside on the turn, she angled out slightly to exploit the gap between My Typhoon and the tiring Paddy's Daisy. Quickly engaging My Typhoon for the lead, Melhor Ainda was in firm control by the time they reached the eighth pole.
"I wanted to be covered up because I think she is better when she is covered up. I was sitting right behind Jerry (Bailey on Paddy's Daisy) the whole time," Velazquez said. "His filly gets out a little bit, and as soon as she drifted out a little bit, I punched it and she was there. Wow, she blew them away. "
Melhor Ainda carried top weight of 123 pounds.
Laurafina, who was coming off a maiden win in her third start, rallied belatedly to finish second by 1 1/2 lengths, with the Irish-bred My Typhoon third in the seven-horse field, 4 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Melhor Ainda, sent off at odds of 2-5, was coming off a 3 1/2-length win over Paddys Daisy in the Appalachian at a mile on the Keeneland turf April 24.
Jayeff B Stables and Reynolds Bell Jr. bred Melhor Ainda, who was produced by the Argentine mare Potrinner, in Kentucky. She brought $125,000 at Keeneland in 2003.
The winner paid $2.80, $2.30 and $2.10. Laurafina, who was ridden by Javier Castellano, returned $7.30 and $3.30, completing a $29.60 exacta. My Typhoon, Edgar Prado aboard, was $2.80 to show.
Wait It Out, Dynamite Lass, Miami Princess and Paddy's Daisy trailed. Merrill Gold was scratched. Capitulation and Neverlacken were entered for the main track only.