Nutella Fella Targets Woody Stephens

Nutella Fella | Sarah Andrew

Bell Gable Stable's Nutella Fella (Runhappy), off since winning last year's GI Hopeful S., could return to action in the June 8 GI Woody Stephens S. The bay colt upset the Hopeful at 54-1, but suffered a hind ankle injury while training for the GI Champagne S. and underwent surgery. He has been working at Oak Ridge Training Center in Ocala and is currently back with trainer Gary Contessa's string in Saratoga.

“He worked five-eighths in 1:01 in Ocala before I brought him up last week,” Contessa said. “He'll probably have his first work the middle of next week. I'll wait until the weather is good and the track is to my liking.”

Contessa continued, “His first race of the year should be the Woody Stephens on Belmont Day. He's a good horse and it's the perfect distance for him–same distance as the Hopeful and he's already worked five-eighths. He's going to be really ready for that race in June. I know it's a tough ask to come back in the Woody Stephens, but that distance is what he's best at.”

Contessa is expecting another 2023 Saratoga graded winner to make the trek north from Ocala in the coming week. Lee Pokoik's Becky's Joker (Practical Joke) won the GIII Schuylerville S. in her racetrack debut last July, but has not been seen since finishing seventh in her second outing in the Aug. 6 GIII Adirondack S.

“Mentally, she just fell apart on me after that race,” Contessa said. “We gave her the winter off and that's what you've got to do with these young horses when they're not progressing mentally the way you want them to and Lee is the type of owner who will let you do the right thing.”

Becky's Joker spent the winter at Eclipse Training Center.

“I worked her five-eighths last Friday in 1:02 at Eclipse,” Contessa said. “My game plan is to work her there this Friday and then ship her on the weekend.”

Of potential targets for the filly, Contessa said, “I want to see how she's progressing and how she's doing. Obviously, during the Belmont Stakes weekend there is a mile and an eighth race for her [June 7 GI Acorn S.] and I don't think distance is going to be a problem for her because she's 17.2 [hands]. She's the biggest filly you'll ever want to see, but she'll have to tell me when she wants to come back. She's eligible for allowances and all the 3-year-old stakes races–there's so many opportunities for her, so we'll play it one step at a time.”

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