Bella Bellucci Returns With Santa Paula Win

Bella Bellucci passed all four of her Santa Paula Stakes rivals between the stretch call and the wire to earn a half-length victory in the $102,075 race for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita. Under Mike Smith, Michael Tabor's daughter of French Deputy completed the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.36 on a fast track while making her first start since October's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).

"Neil (Drysdale, trainer) told me he didn't gear her up at all for a sprint," said Smith. "We just wanted to get her back to the races. If we could get there (win), great. He just wanted her really finishing at the end and not to rush her. He told me to ride her like I did in her maiden race (Sept. 9 last year at Belmont), give her a chance and come home."

Shameful finished second, a neck ahead of Spring Meadow, with Icantgoforthat another nose back in fourth. Boozin' Susan completed the order of finish.

The win marks the third in four starts for Bella Bellucci. Prior to her third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup, she won the Astarita Stakes (gr. II) following a debut maiden win.

"We haven't put any speed into her at all because her goal is the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), which is nine furlongs," said Drysdale. "This is just a tightener and we'll run her again in the Comely in New York (gr. III, April 14), so that will be her second prep (for the Oaks)."

Bella Bellucci is out of Blue Avenue and is a full sister of Japanese 3-year-old champion and Japan Cup Dirt winner Kurofune. Her second dam, Eliza Blue, produced Tabor's Nokoma (by Pulpit). Bella Bellucci was bred in Kentucky by Nicholas Lotz and sold for $925,000 as a 2-year-old.

Bella Bellucci returned $3.60, $2.40, and $2.10 as the 4-5 favorite. Shameful paid $3 and $2.10. Spring Meadow paid $2.10 to show. The $1 exacta returned $5.60. (Chart, Equibase)