Bonita Bianca last to first in New York Oaks

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

Following a protracted last-to-first drive, last year’s New York-bred champion juvenile filly Bonita Bianca (Curlin) got up in time to win the $75,000 New York Oaks at Finger Lakes on Saturday afternoon in the second start of her sophomore campaign.

After six-plus months on the sidelines, Bonita Bianca returned this year at the allowance level at Monmouth on June 24. Bumped at the start, and eager early, she also arguably needed the race and finished a well-beaten fourth as the even-money favorite. She donned blinkers on Saturday afternoon for her Finger Lakes debut.

Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, Bonita Bianca started poorly, ducking in at the break and wandering a little as she got into stride, settling in to trail the field by six or more lengths behind a soft pace set by 41-1 longshot Butch’s Mango (24.25, 49.11).

Bonita Bianca revved up in the approach to the far turn under vigorous urging by jockey Dylan Davis, gained a spot, then swept past her rivals into second by the head of the lane.

With only new leader Playinwiththeboys standing between Bonita Bianca and her third career stakes victory, the filly closed inexorably in the stretch, made the lead in the final hundred yards and drove past to get the neck victory in a final time of 1:46.72. Playinwiththeboys in second finished 6 3/4 lengths clear of Tiznow’s Smile. Somekindasexy, Bluegrass Hip Hop and Butch’s Mango completed the order of finish. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez was snagged on the fly as he was rushing to saddle a horse for Saratoga’s final race. Asked what he thought of Bonita Bianca’s victory, the conditioner replied with a big smile, and without missing a beat, “She was bonita [beautiful] today!” Bonita Bianca is named for Rodriguez’ niece.

Owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables LLC and Michael Imperio, Bonita Bianca won at first asking at Belmont Park last September, before scoring a next-out victory in the one-mile one-turn Maid of the Mist in the slop on Empire Showcase Day. In her third start on November 26, she tested much deeper waters in the Grade 2 Demoiselle, and managed to finish an extremely creditable closing third. She closed out the year with a last-to-first rally to win the East View Stakes. From four wins and a third in six starts, Bonita Bianca has earned $323,000.

Bred by Dormellito Stud and foaled at Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, Bonita Bianca was purchased by Michael Dubb for $97,000 at the 2016 OBS March juvenile sale.

She is a daughter of Friendly Michelle (Artax), winner of the Grade 1 Prioress in 2004. In 2006 the mare sold to Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings for $1.15 million at the Keeneland November sale in 2006. In 2013 Steven Rowan picked up Friendly Michelle for $42,000 with Bonita Bianca in utero at the same venue. Friendly Michelle has produced six winners in all, and currently has a juvenile filly by Simmard, foaled a colt by Paynter on February 24 and has been bred back to Nyquist.

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