Team Valor Stables’ Unbridled Belle turned in an uncharacteristically poor performance in the Louisville Distaff (gr. II) last out, but her connections say they are hopeful the 6-year-old mare will rebound with a big effort in the $125,000 Obeah Stakes (gr. III), a race she won a year ago.
Team Valor president Barry Irwin said Unbridled Belle had a legitimate excuse for her fifth-place finish in the May 17 Distaff at Churchill Downs, and it wasn’t just that she bobbled at the start. He is confident that she will be much improved when taking on seven rivals in the June 20 Obeah at Delaware Park.
“She was bred to A.P. Indy and her training didn't go as smoothly as we would have liked,” said Irwin, who stated that Unbridled Belle is not currently in foal and would be retired to Hill 'n' Dale in November. “She is back on the beam and is expected to run big this weekend. Her work at Delaware last week (June 7, five furlongs in 1:01) was, by all accounts, excellent. Her work this week was slower because the track was wet and Todd (Pletcher) didn't want to take any chances. I think we will see the real Belle on Saturday.”
The 1 1/8-mile Obeah is the local prep for the $1 million Delaware Handicap (gr. II) on July 19 and the top four finishers will earn a free nomination to that event. Unbridled Belle won the Delaware Handicap in 2007 and ran third to Hystericalady a year ago. In all, she is 4-1-1 from six lifetime starts at Delaware Park. She also finished runner-up in the 2007 Obeah.
A daughter of Broken Vow—Little Bold Belle, by Silver Buck, Unbridled Belle has earned more than $1.5 million in her 19-start career. Her biggest win came in the 2007 Beldame (gr. I) when she defeated Indian Vale by a head. The day bay’s lone victory in 2008 came in the Obeah.
Unbridled Belle was installed as the 2-1 favorite and drew post 7. Pletcher has assigned Richard Migliore to ride.
One of Unbridled Belle’s main challengers will be Darley Stable’s Skylighter, who enters off a victory in the Allaire duPont Distaff (gr. II) May 16 at Pimlico. A 4-year-old daughter of Sky Mesa, Skylighter also won the Indiana Oaks (gr. II) at Hoosier Park as a sophomore and was runner-up in the Falls City Handicap (gr. II) later that fall at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Bobby Frankel, Skylighter has produced a solid 4-3-2 record from 11 lifetime starts and has earned more than $450,000. The 3-1 morning-line second choice will be ridden by Mike Smith while carrying top weight of 123 pounds.
Perhaps the most intriguing horse in the field is Claudio Pizarro’s Morena, a Peruvian-bred mare who makes her American debut. A 5-year-old daughter of Privately Held, Morena has notched 10 wins from 15 starts in Peru, including three consecutive resounding triumphs. In November, she scored by 25 lengths in a group III event.
“We are going to find out a lot about her this Saturday," said trainer Michael Matz. “She has a good record in South America, and she is a big lovely filly, so we will see how good she really is.”
Also on the Delaware card is the $125,000 Susan's Girl Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile test for fillies is the local prep for the 1 1/16-mile $250,000 Delaware Oaks (gr. II) to be run on July 18. John Ferris and Mike Pressley's Payton d'Oro, a winner of four straight, tops a field of nine entered.
$125,000 Obeah Stakes (gr. III, Race 7, 3:57 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Tell It as It Is (KY), J Rose, 117, J J Smith
2. Striking Tomisue (KY), D Cohen, 117, N P Zito
3. All Night Labor (FL), C L Potts, 117, R Nunley
4. You Asked (FL), A Castellano Jr., 117, A E Goldberg
5. Morena (PER), A R Napravnik, 117, M R Matz
6. All Smiles (MD), J Shepherd, 117, F P Campitelli
7. Unbridled Belle (KY), R Migliore, 117, T A Pletcher
8. Skylighter (KY), M E Smith, 123, R J Frankel