Despite being accidentally hit with the whip of a rival's jockey in deep stretch, Phillips Racing Partnership's homebred Bellavais quickly regained her focus and momentum to capture the $100,000 Ginger Brew Stakes Jan. 7 at Gulfstream Park.
"She just got hit in the face with the whip and then she went back at him like she was mad," said jockey John Velazquez after providing the 3-year-old daughter of Tapit with a perfectly executed ground-saving trip in the 7 1/2-furlong turf race for 3-year-old fillies.
It would have been a dream trip for the James Toner-trained filly had she not been hit by the whip of Leonel Reyes while he was urging on the tiring pacesetter, India Mantuana, during the stretch run. Bellavais threw her head in the air but recovered quickly to claim her first stakes victory by three-quarters of a length. India Mantuana held second money, finishing 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Lady Alexandra.
"I thought she jumped something, but Johnny said the rider hit her. She's a tough little filly. She's small but she's very tough and competitive—that's what makes her. That makes up for her lack of size," Toner said. "She's agile and she's determined."
Bellavais, who ran the distance over a firm turf course in 1:30.37, had benefited from another horse's misfortune after finishing second in her most recent race at Aqueduct Racetrack when she was awarded her first career victory upon the disqualification of the winner, who interfered with the third-place finisher.
Toner's plan is to give Bellavais a break and point her to a stakes at Keeneland in the spring. She is out of the grade III-winning Ghostzapper mare La Cloche, a daughter of grade I winner Memories of Silver.