Fillies Bring the Graded Type to Keeneland January

Bella Vita | Benoit


When the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale opens its four-day run in Lexington next week, it will present buyers the opportunity to bid on fillies and mares, offered as racing or broodmare prospects, whose recent form had them hitting the board in graded company.

Multiple stakes winner Bella Vita (Bayern) was second behind champion Gamine (Into Mischief) in the July 5 GII Great Lady M S. at Los Alamitos and comes into the Keeneland January sale off a runner-up effort in the Dec. 4 GIII Go For Wand H. for owner Kaleem Shah and trainer Simon Callaghan. Her 2021 campaign also included wins in the Betty Grable S. at Del Mar in November and in the Spring Fever S. at Santa Anita in February.

“Obviously you have to make a profit in this business, that was one of the driving points to put her in the sale, but I am not driven to sell her,” Shah said of Bella Vita's engagement next Tuesday at Keeneland. “If she brings a fair price, we will sell her and wish the new connections well.”

Bella Vita, who has hit the board in 11 of 14 starts with four wins and earnings of $396,722, is consigned as hip 462 with Eaton Sales.

A $400,000 OBS April purchase in 2019, the 5-year-old is out of the unraced Queenie Cat (Storm Cat), who is half-sister to champion Vindication (Seattle Slew) and to graded winner Scipion (A.P. Indy).

“Her mamma was a very expensive mare, a $1.7-million [2005 Keeneland September] yearling, and in the second and third dams there is a champion and lots of graded stakes winners,” Shah said. “She has a strong, deep female family and that will be attractive to buyers. It looks like the market has been strong and this mare should be very attractive to people who want to race and then to breed her at some point.”

Trainer and co-owner James Chapman was able to acquire Saucy Lady T (Tonalist) for just $5,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The filly was third in three graded events at Saratoga last summer and has earned $146,500 to date. She will head through the Keeneland January sales ring  next Tuesday from the Stuart Morris consignment as hip 848.

“She was in the November sale and she had dinged her eye, so we scratched her,” Chapman said of the decision to offer the now 3-year-old in the January sale.

Saucy Lady T is out of graded placed Fila Primera (War Front) and her third dam is Promenade Colony (Pleasant Colony), who produced graded winner Promenade Girl. It is the family of Cavorting and her daughter Clairiere.

“She was a big, stretchy, good-looking filly. She looked like what I would buy,” Chapman said of his bargain yearling purchase. “I don't know why she cost that really. She was maybe a little bigger and clumsier looking than most of them. She wasn't something to flip back as a 2-year-old, so you lost all those guys, and Tonalist was cold at the time, so you lost those guys.”

Saucy Lady T broke her maiden by five lengths going five furlongs at Belmont Apr. 25 and then went on to finish third in the July 15 GIII Schuylerville S., Aug. 8 GII Adirondack S., and again in the Sept. 5 GI Spinaway S.

“She shouldn't have even run at two. She was bred to run long,” Chapman said of those early efforts. “I let them do it as long as they'll do it without being asked and she kept doing it. So she was in my first group to run. I had 50 of them that year and she was the best of the class.”

Saucy Lady T has been off since finishing fifth in the GI Frizette S. last October.

“I've had her with me at Belmont,” Chapman said. “I just gave her some time off because we didn't take her to the Breeders' Cup. She needed a break, so I could have a fresh horse for her 3-year-old year.”

Chapman expects potential buyers will have plenty to look forward to this year with the filly.

“She'll be a very nice 3-year-old,” he said. “She still has her non-winners of two condition and then it's up to them what they want to do with her.”

Should Saucy Lady T fail to meet her reserve, Chapman already has a plan mapped out for the filly.

“If I were still to have her, she would run in an a-other-than and then she would run in the filly stakes at Turfway, the Bourbonette, and then she would go in the Ashland and the Kentucky Oaks. And that's what she will do if they don't pay for her.”

Stakes-winning Miss Bigly (Gemologist), coming off a pair of third-place efforts against graded company in California, is consigned to the January sale as hip 221 with Taylor Made Sales Agency, but the 5-year-old mare's participation in Monday's first  session of the auction will be determined Saturday in Arkansas when she goes postward in the Pippin S. at Oaklawn Park.

“The outcome of that race will determine whether she is in the sale or an out,” co-owner Mark Martinez of Agave Racing Stable said.

Agave Racing acquired Miss Bigly privately in 2020 and the mare has hit the board in nine of 10 starts for the partnership of Agave and Rockin Robin.

“We always felt like we could go to California and potentially run her in a graded stakes race and get her decorated up with a 'G' or two and we were able to accomplish that,” Martinez said. “You can see we ran her at probably five or six different tracks over a six-month period, so she logged more frequent miles than I did. But she answered the bell. We've run her 10 times and in every dirt race she's run for us, she's hit the board.”

Miss Bigly won the Tranquility Lake S. at Del Mar in August before third-place efforts in the Oct. 3 GII Zenyatta S. at Santa Anita and in the Nov. 29 GIII Chilukki S. at Churchill Downs Nov. 20.

“We had her in the November sale just to keep our options open,” Martinez said. “She ran well in those two graded stakes races, so we opted to move her to January. If she keeps running well, we will keep campaigning her and getting her decorated up, if we can. We will shift her to next November and if something were to happen, hypothetically, in March, we would consider putting her in foal and selling her in foal instead of selling her open in November if we elect to campaign her. We are just keeping options open more than anything.”

Miss Bigly is out of Miss Puzzle (Aus) (Citidancer) and she is a half-sister to Grade I winner Fashion Plate (Old Fashioned), a pedigree and a physical that should appeal to buyers.

“The buyers would be interested in her because she is a big, good-looking 16.1 every bit of physical, attractive filly and she has a rich bottom side pedigree,” he said.

Miss Bigly is 5-2 on the morning line for Saturday's one-mile Pippin S. for trainer Phil D'Amato.

“You like to sell them at five, but she isn't a graded stakes winner, so our thought is, if she can win a graded stakes, she would be worth more at six as a graded stakes winner than she is at five without winning a graded stakes,” Martinez explained.

Other Book 1 racing or broodmare prospects who enter the Keeneland January with graded placings in 2021 include Ego Trip (Ire) (No Nay Never) (hip 113), who was third in the GII Lake Placid S. at Saratoga in August. The 4-year-old is consigned by Hunter Valley Farm.

Portal Creek (Shanghai Bobby) (hip 271), a 6-year-old consigned by Elite, was second in the GIII Distaff H. at Aqueduct in April. Elite also consigns the 4-year-old Flown (Kitten's Joy) (hip 417), who was third in the GIII Regret S. and GIII Pucker Up S. last summer.

The 6-year-old On Deck (First Samurai), consigned by Taylor Made as hip 430B, was runner-up in the Oct. 3 GIII Chillingworth S., while Honor Way (Caleb's Posse) (hip 581), consigned by Paramount Sales, was second behind Paris Lights (Curlin) and Portal Creek in the GIII Distaff.

The Keeneland January sale begins Monday and continues through Thursday with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.

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