Valdale Firsts for Filly, Owner, Trainer

Helen Belen, owned by Mike Schnell's Desk Farms, won her first stakes in the Feb. 20 Valdale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Turfway Park, and in the process gave her owner and trainer their first stakes victories (VIDEO).

Helen Belen, by Five Star Day out of the Cherokee Run mare Waterford Express, finished third after a poor start in the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes in her previous start. The $50,000 Valdale, at one mile, was her first start around two turns.

Helen Belen broke well in the 10-horse field under Sal Gonzalez Jr. and had a daylight lead on the first turn. She widened her lead on the backstretch, far turn, and stretch, eventually winning by 14 3/4 lengths. The fractions were :24.21 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.76 for the half-mile, and 1:12.28 for six furlongs. The final time for the mile was a good 1:37.96 on the Polytrack surface.

Kentucky-bred Helen Belen ($24.20 to win), now three-for-four with all starts at Turfway, is trained by Bill Denzik Jr. at Highpointe Farm and Training Center northeast of Louisville. It was the first stakes win for Denzik, and the first for Desk Farms.

“She’s a big, long, lanky kind of filly, and she’s by Five Star Day out of a mare by Cherokee Run, and they’re usually milers,” Denzik told Turfway officials after the race. “She has been breaking a little slow going short, so I thought at least she’d be up in the race a little more than she had been.

“She’s got good airways and she has always finished strong. In her last start she broke slow and ran green, and she still got third and was coming at the end.  She scoped with a little bit of a lung infection after that race, too.”

“I was just a passenger,” Gonzalez said. “She has been running short and going a lot faster (than she had to in the Valdale).”

Hot Citizen finished second, followed by Offlee Funny in third. Both of those fillies were stretching out for the first time as well. Even-money favorite Sister Resistor finished sixth.

Denzik said he expects to bring Helen Belen back to Turfway for the $125,000 Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) at one mile March 27 on the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) undercard.

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