Bella Bellini Worth Price Of Admission

Published: September 17, 2021 02:13 pm EDT

It cost a bit for David McDuffee to get Bella Bellini into Saturday’s $414,000 Elegantimage Stakes for three-year-old female trotters, but the longtime owner is not going to complain. His homebred filly was not eligible to the event, so McDuffee spent $30,000 to supplement to the race at Woodbine Mohawk Park, where Bella Bellini is the 8-5 morning-line favourite.

Bella Bellini, who won the Hambletonian Oaks in August, heads to the Elegantimage with eight victories and four seconds in 13 races this season, good for $510,050 in purses. She was fifth against older rivals following a three-week layoff after the Oaks but rebounded to capture the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship from post nine at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Sept. 4.

Last year, Bella Bellini was winless in seven races, which led to her being staked more lightly than McDuffee’s other three-year-old filly trotters.

“I had four trotting fillies last winter, and Bella was behind the other three in February when we had to make some stakes payments,” McDuffee said. “We’re scrambling a little bit to catch up but I’m very pleased (Bella Bellini) has worked out as well as she has. This is a perfect spot for her because she needed a race. It’s worth the supplemental fee.”

Bella Bellini, trained by Richard “Nifty” Norman and driven by Dexter Dunn, is a daughter of Bar Hopping out of Bella Dolce. McDuffee was among the breeders of Bella Dolce and raced her through her career, which culminated with $753,133 in purses. McDuffee also was among the owners of Bella Dolce’s mom, Dan Patch Award-winner Pizza Dolce.

“I love the family,” McDuffee said. “Pizza was a very special horse and I’ve had pretty good luck with her offspring. I’m probably going to breed this one, too.”

Bella Bellini opened this season with a win in a division of the Bobby Weiss Series in April at Pocono. McDuffee talked with Dunn following the race, which Bella Bellini won by more than 15 lengths in 1:54, and started to realize she was a different horse from the previous year.

“He said Bella Bellini is going to be pretty special,” McDuffee recalled. “I could see from the way she won that she was good, but I wasn’t sure she was any better than the others. He said she was the real thing.”

Earlier this year, Norman said he was shocked by Bella Bellini’s improvement.

“I’ve never had a horse improve so much from (age) two to three,” Norman said. “She’s a good horse, but you couldn’t tell that last year. Normally, you can tell something. She had speed, but that was it. She just struggled the whole time. But she matured, is sound, and is good now.”

Norman has won the Elegantimage on three occasions, with Evident Beauty in 2019, Bee A Magician in 2013, and Beatgoeson Hanover in 2011. McDuffee was among the owners of Bee A Magician, who was 2013 Horse of the Year in the U.S. and Canada.

“This (with Bella Bellini) was unexpected, and it is exciting, but it’s always exciting when you have a good horse,” McDuffee said. “It’s always very special. Her being a homebred is probably the frosting on the cake.”

O’Brien Award-winner Donna Soprano, who won last week’s Simcoe Stakes at Mohawk, is the 7-2 second choice in the Elegantimage. She is trained by Luc Blais and will have Bob McClure in the sulky. HP Mama B, who won a division of the Casual Breeze on Sept. 3, is the 9-2 third choice for driver Sylvain Filion and trainer Ben Baillargeon.

Saturday’s card also includes the $606,500 Canadian Trotting Classic for three-year-old trotters and $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational for older male pacers. Ahundreddollarbill is the 5-2 morning-line favourite in the Canadian Trotting Classic while Canadian Pacing Derby champ Allywag Hanover is the 8-5 chalk in the Gold Cup.

To view complete entries for Saturday's harness racing card at Woodbine Mohawk Park and complimentary past performance pages, click on the following links: Saturday Entries -- Program Pages (courtesy TrackIT).


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