Barn Bella Back In New York Sire Stakes

Barn Bella is back for more.

The New York Sire Stakes champion from a year ago is back in search of a repeat as the lucrative NYSS season kicks off Sunday evening at Tioga Downs with three divisions for three-year-old trotting fillies. Each sports a purse of over $40,000.

A Steven Pratt trainee, Barn Bella (post position three, 2-1 morning line, Jeff Gregory driving) won the NYSS Final last September at Yonkers Raceway to complete a season in which she won six of nine races and banked just over $200,000. The daughter of Conway Hall has prepped for Sunday’s fifth race by winning her first three starts of 2017, the most recent at Tioga on May 20 in a sparkling 1:54.

“I struggled with her in her first two starts (last year),” said Pratt. “On a half-mile track she wanted to run in, but we put a Murphy blind on her that did not let her see to the side. After that, she was good to go. She (went off stride) in all three of her losses. She only beat herself. I think she’s the best New York Sire Stakes filly.”

One race earlier, trainer Staffan Lind sends out 5-2 second choice Sunshine Delight, a daughter of Credit Winner. Lind’s 25-year-old son Christian, who got his ‘A’ driving license just last week, will be in the sulky from post seven.

“I expect good things from her this season,” said Staffan. “She’s a versatile horse. She can leave or race from off the pace. She’s laid back, almost lazy, but she always does what you want her to do.”

Sunshine Delight was an easy winner in her seasonal debut at Mohegan Sun Pocono in 1:55.2 after making the lead at the half. She then finished second at Pocono coming from well off the pace in her last start on May 16.

The 2-1 favourite from post two in that dash is the Trond Smedshammer-trained and driven Celebrity Ruth, a daughter of Archangel. Unraced at two, she is off her first career victory in three tries, a superb 1:54 clocking at The Meadowlands on May 19.

In race nine, the third and final NYSS division finds the John Butenschoen-trained Northern Courtney as the 2-1 choice. The Deweycheatumnhowe product leaves from post four with Mike Simons in the driver’s seat.

“Last year, she was physically and mentally immature,” said Butenschoen of his student, who failed to hit the board in any of her three 2016 outings. “But this year she came back and qualified well in Florida.

“She broke in her first start at Philadelphia but since then I watched her a little bit. I put her in a non-winners of three at Pocono to get some education (she won in 1:55.4). Then, we found a nice little spot for her in a series at Tioga (on May 6 and 20, she won both races).”

Northern Courtney’s main foe looks to be Chapter Heaven, a Rick Zeron trainee who will be handled by Rick’s son, Scott. The Chapter Seven product will start at 3-1 from post position five.

Post time for the first race at Tioga is 6:50 p.m. Eastern.

(Harness Horse Breeders of New York State)