Belle of the Spa lights up toteboard in Yaddo upset

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

NYRA/Taylor Ejdys

By Bill Heller

There seemed to be little reason for Anthony McCarthy’s homebred five-year-old mare Belle of the Spa to be in the mile-and-a-sixteenth $150,000 Yaddo Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares on the turf on Showcase Day Friday at Saratoga Race Course. She’d lost to English Soul, one of her opponents in the Yaddo, by 8 1/2 lengths in her previous start when she finished sixth, and English Soul finished second in an open allowance race at Saratoga July 31. Belle of the Spa had never even been in a stakes before Friday.

That didn’t prevent McCarthy and trainer Bruce Brown from taking a shot in the Yaddo. Maybe they knew that Fifty Five, the Chad Brown filly who would have been an odds-on favorite in the Yaddo, would scratch to run in the $400,000 Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes Saturday at Saratoga.

Regardless, they gave Belle of the Spa a shot. And her jockey Dylan Davis, son of a great grass rider Robbie Davis, delivered one hell of a ride on the lead. More importantly, Belle of the Spa didn’t give in when confronted in mid-stretch by Munchkin Money, the 8-5 favorite in the Yaddo field of six under Junior Alvarado. Munchkin Money put a head in front of Belle of the Spa, who, at 31-1, fought back on the inside, reclaimed the lead and won the Yaddo by a neck in 1:43.75.

Belle of the Spa’s victory touched her connections. “This filly is named after Anthony’s mother who passed recently, so it couldn’t mean more,” Brown said.

Kreesie, who was 8-1 with Jose Ortiz riding, finished third, a length and a quarter behind Munchkin Money while a half-length in front of 5-2 Wegetsdamunnys and Joel Rosario in fourth.

Belle of the Spa, a daughter of Pure Prize out of Awakened Beauty by Devil His Due, had shown proficiency on turf, with three victories, one second and one third in eight starts. But she hadn’t hit the board in two prior Saratoga turf starts, the last with Dylan Davis aboard when she was sixth.

Nobody told Davis or Belle of the Spa that they didn’t belong in the Yaddo and she broke sharply from the three post and beat English Soul and Manny Franco, the 9-5 second choice, to the lead.

Munchkin Money broke well, too, and Alvarado settled her in second. Belle of the Spa, though, took a clear lead. That allowed Davis to set a slow pace with a two-length lead after a :25.08 opening quarter-mile.

Sensing the pace was slow, Alvarado moved Munchkin Money within three-quarters of a length of Belle of the Spa, who continued at a glacial pace, hitting the half-mile in :50.61 and three-quarters in 1:15.63. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“I wanted to take control and I was allowed to slow the pace, so I took advantage of it,” Davis said. “I had a lot turning for home.”

Then Munchkin Money moved for the lead around the far turn and to the top of the stretch. Munchkin Money drew even with Belle of the Spa and put a head in front, but Belle of the Spa responded immediately, taking the lead back and then digging in and fighting off the favorite all the way to the wire for the sweetest win of her career.

“I would have been happy with second at mid-stretch, but she just kept fighting,” Brown said.

Davis couldn’t have been prouder of his filly: “I thought that Junior was going to keep going on after he headed me, but I felt like my horse was still fighting pretty hard.”

Hard enough to win her stakes debut.

Now four-for-nine on grass with one second and one third, Belle of the Spa also has raced twice on dirt and she has total earnings of more than $200,000.

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