Valuable Gr.1 placing for Bella Mente

Bella Mente again showed the class she displayed in her Matamata win (pictured) when Group One placed yesterday.

It was hard to take the smile off trainer Shaune Ritchie’s face after his gutsy two-year-old filly Bella Mente picked up an invaluable placing at Group One level when finishing third in yesterday’s Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni

The nuggety El Roca filly had entered the race as one of the outside despite a tidy formline that included a last-start fourth placing in the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).

Ritchie and Bella Mente’s large group of owners took the option to forego a start in the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie in favour of yesterday’s event and that judgment was well and truly vindicated as she fought bravely in the home straight to finish within half-a length of the winner, Yourdeel.

A delighted Ritchie admitted he was starting to get more than a little excited at the 150m when Bella Mente hit the front for a brief moment.

“She looked like the winner momentarily so the excitement levels were right up there,” he said.

“She was really kicking strongly at that point, but I looked across and saw the good horse (Yourdeel) coming and I knew then we were in trouble.

“She didn’t give it away at any stage so to pick up a Group One placing at just her fourth start is fantastic for everyone involved in her.”

Bella Mente started at long-odds for the contest, but Ritchie believed the market price ($37) didn’t reflect the true chances of his charge.

“I think she might have been overlooked by many and we thought she was a much better chance than what the tote was saying,” he said.

“She went a terrific race at Matamata as she was wide most of the way while the first two home got inside runs.

“We missed Ellerslie and the heavy track that day so she was the fresh horse on the scene and we knew she was at her peak for this one.

“She certainly did us proud and I can’t wait to see how good she can be for her three-year-old campaign.

“She will go out for a good spell now and we will bring her back with the intention of getting her to the One Thousand Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) at Riccarton.”

Ritchie was also pleased to see talented stayer Excalibur make a solid return to the track when running on nicely over 1400m at Ellerslie.

“He didn’t really come up as well as we would have liked and wasn’t finishing his races off that well so we tipped him out for a freshen-up,” he said.

“I thought he went quite a cheeky race on Saturday so, if he can make some progress from there, we will have some nice options with him, including some races over in Australia over the next few months.”

NZ Racing Desk