After showing little in two prior stakes attempts this year, Ciao Bella Luna relished a return to a synthetic surface April 14 at Keeneland, capturing the $150,000 Beaumont Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select (gr. IIT).
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer shipped Ciao Bella Luna from Southern California to produce a 7-1 victory against a field of 10 other 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs on Keeneland's Polytrack. Joel Rosario, who has succesfully teamed with Hollendorfer often in the past, guided the Kentucky-bred daughter of Tribal Rule to a 2 1/2-length victory in a time of 1:26.92.
The race was worth 20 "wildcard" points to Ciao Bella Luna's connections toward a start in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). It was not immediately known if Hollendorfer, who did not make the trip to Kentucky, is leaning in that direction.
Ciao Bella Luna recorded her first stakes victory for her owner/breeders—Dennis and Carol Yokum's Car-Den Racing Stable—and partners. She began her career at Golden Gate Fields by winning her first two starts on the Northern California track's synthetic Tapeta racing surface. She then ran second in her stakes debut in the Golden Gate Debutante Dec. 1.
Hollendorfer started her out on dirt this season and Ciao Bella Luna failed to respond while finishing ninth of 10 in the Sliverbulletday Stakes Jan. 19 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Back in Southern California for the one-mile China Doll Stakes on the Santa Anita Park turf March 9, the bay filly was just slightly more involved as she ran seventh of 12.
But she came to life in the Beaumont, always in hand while stalking the leaders from her outside post. She ranged up four-wide leaving the turn before challenging pacesetter Magical Moon mid-stretch, wresting the lead away approaching the sixteenth pole. Ciao Bella Luna drew off steadily under a vigorous hand ride from Rosario to win easily.
"I got a perfect trip," Rosario said after riding Ciao Bella Luna for the first time. "Turning for home, I knew she had plenty left. She did good today."
Magical Moon, with substitute rider Brian Hernandez Jr. replacing Rosie Napravnik, was a surprise pacesetter and held on stubbornly for second. She posted fractions of :22.86 and :46.10 after getting the early advantage from Allaboutcaroline but was no match late for the winner. She finished 2 3/4 lengths ahead of 2-1 favorite Judy In Disguise, third with Mike Smith in the saddle.
Ciao Bella, who is out of the Conquistador Cielo mare Shadow of the Moon, earned $90,000 for her third win from five starts and has now banked $145,180.
“She shipped beautifully. She settled right in, and she’s been very comfortable" said Christina Jelm, Hollendorfer's assistant. "It has been great to get her back on the synthetic surface. Jerry and racing manager Mark Cornett have found her niche, I think.”
Ciao Bella Luna carried 118 pounds and paid $16.60, $7, and $4.40 as the fourth choice. Magical Moon, returning to Keeneland for the first time since finishing third in last fall's Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I), returned $5.60 and $3.60 while capping an $86.80 exacta.
British-bred Judy In Disguise, also shipping from Southern California after posting a stakes win on turf at Santa Anita Feb. 16, paid $3.20 to show for trainer Simon Callaghan.
Cash Is Queen, breaking from the rail, swerved in badly leaving the chute but jockey Robby Albarado managed to hang on precariously.
“My filly ducked right toward the gap and bounced right off the fence," Albarado said. "Young horses will do that sometimes.”