CALLAGHAN PLAYS CHEF WITH BELLAFINA
Anybody that likes to cook or eat understands one of the key things to producing a delectable dish is quality ingredients. Put good stuff in and you have a chance at a piece de resistance.
Thoroughbred trainer Simon Callaghan has a chance to be a five star chef in 2019. The Cambridge, England native is blessed with a real Quality ingredient in a talented three-year old daughter of Quality Road. With eyes on the Kentucky Oaks as the target for his cuisine, Callaghan is eager for the opportunity to whip a little something up with Bellafina as his main ingredient on that big stage.
“Races like the Kentucky Oaks are why you are in this game,” says Callaghan. “Running on days like that is why you go to work every day. We will take things one race at a time with Bellafina, but obviously that is the place we would like to be on the first Friday in May.”
Bellafina has given her conditioner good reason to believe she can be the magic ingredient. Four impressive wins and a second in six career starts has her currently sitting in the third spot (22) on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard. Her only finish out of the money was a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 2 at Churchill Downs. She followed that however, with a lip-smackin’ romp in the Santa Ynez in her first start as a three-year old. Winning the seven furlong event by a widening 8 ½ lengths, Bellafina looked every bit the tasty treat she was thought to be.
“We thought going into the Santa Ynez she had a chance to do something special,” says Callaghan of the Kaleem Shah owned filly. “The Breeders Cup was not a true reflection of who she is. I think Bellafina has all the tools to be a great racehorse. I think she is the best filly I have ever trained.”
Having grown up in the sport, Callaghan is no stranger to talented Thoroughbreds. A son of an English trainer (Neville), the Southern California based conditioner has made his mark in the states with talented turf runners like Slim Shady and good dirt runners in Moonshine Memories and Firing Line to name a few. His prized filly has a lot of things to like right now, but her continuing improvement has Callaghan really excited about the future.
“Quality Road horses seem to always get better with age,” says the former assistant to Todd Pletcher. “I think she has those characteristics as she seems to continue making herself better. Our job is to keep her healthy and continue cultivating her desire to improve.”
The likely next stop is the grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita on February 9. Run at a 1 mile distance on the main track, Callaghan sees this as part of his master cooking plan with the Santa Anita Oaks as the final stop before the Kentucky Oaks.
“We have had a plan coming into the year where we ran twice before the Santa Anita Oaks and then went on to Kentucky,” says Callaghan. “We think the spacing is right and she should be ready for some big efforts in both of the Oaks races. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to train such a talented filly. Right now we just want to take things one day at a time.”