Off at 8-1 in the 6 1/2-furlong event on the main track, the Todd Pletcher-trained daughter of Arch took command at the top of the stretch and pulled away from the six other fillies in the field to win by six lengths lengths under jockey Javier Castellano.
Castellano deftly guided Nonna Mela after they broke well from post 2, but found themselves inside the speedy Silvertoni. Castellano dropped his filly back to stalk Silivertoni, and most importantly got her to the outside.
"I liked the way she broke from the gate. It was a great performance," Castellano said. "There was a lot of speed out of the gate, but she broke sharp and put me in a good position. I moved her a little outside, (because) I didn't want to get stuck on the rail. That was the key to win the race."
The first quarter went in :21.81 and the half in :45.13, and Nonna Mella pulled ahead late in the turn, but 3-2 favorite Libby's Tail loomed with a three-wide move. The favorite lacked any punch in the stretch, however, and flattened out to finish fourth. Silvertoni held for second 3 1/4 lengths clear of Olive Branch.
"When I saw that Silvertoni tried to dictate the pace and go to the lead, I didn't want to go too fast," Castellano said. "My filly didn't have to be on the lead. She had control in the race and finished strong. I really liked the way she did it."
The winner hit the wire in 1:16.83 and paid $19.80, $8.70, and $5.90 across the board. Silvertoni delivered $5.60 and $4.70, and Olive Branch brought $5.
Nonna Mela was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, out of the Storm Cat mare Cool Storm. She broke her maiden by 7 1/4 lengths last time out July 2 at Monmouth Park in her second start in New Jersey for Pletcher. She was a $310,000 purchase in 2015 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
"I thought one of her works here was really good and the other one I thought was just OK," Pletcher said. "The track here's been a little quirky and we felt like she showed us enough to give it a try. We weren't completely surprised (by the effort), although this was a pretty dominating performance, really."