Chilean-bred Isola Piu Bella never let 7-10 favorite Daydreaming out of her sight, pulling away in the stretch for her first North American victory in the $100,000 Sabin Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park.
A four-time grade I winner in her native country, the 5-year-old bay mare was ridden to the 2 1/2-length win by John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Sumaya Us Stables.
In Isola Piu Bella's only previous start in the United States – her first race in 13 months – the daughter of Rich Man's Gold tired in the Banshee Breeze after leading in the stretch, finishing third as the heavy favorite. Saturday's victory was her seventh in 13 lifetime starts and pushed her earnings to $224,960.
"I stayed right with (Daydreaming) and then from there, if (Isolu Piu Bella) was any good, she was going to show it," Velazquez said. "She really showed it today. Last time she was coming off that long layoff and I got stuck making a premature move down on the inside. This time it was perfect and she was much, much more ready for this race."
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:50 3/5.
Pacesetter Pampered Princess, ridden by Eddie Castro, was second, a length better than Adobe Gold and Javier Castellano.
Daydreaming, making her first start since winning the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct three months ago, checked in fourth for Jerry Bailey, tiring in the stretch after pressing the moderate pace (:24, :48 1/5, 1:12 3/5). She lost by 5 1/4 lengths.
Valiant Dancer finished last in the field of five.
Pletcher said he would probably enter Isolu Piu Bella in the Rampart (gr. II) March 26 next.
The second choice of the bettors, Isola Piu Bella paid $7.20, $4.60 and $4.80. Pampered Princess returned $5 and $4.20. Adobe Gold was $5 to show.