Spotlight on the Night of the Stars: Bellafina and Donna Veloce

Reiley McDonald of Eaton Sales said that selling mares like Donna Veloce and Bellafina “does not happen every day” Sara Gordon


Separated by just one year in age, Bellafina (Quality Road -Akron Moon, by Malibu Moon) and Donna Veloce (Uncle Mo – Coin Broker {Ire}, by Montjeu {Ire}) were both $800,000 2-year-old purchases for owner-breeder Kaleem Shah. Both were brilliant juveniles on the racetrack, with one becoming a 'TDN Rising Star' on debut and the other winning a pair of Grade I contests at two, and they each went on to achieve further graded stakes success throughout their careers. Retired from racing after their 2020 campaigns, they now both have one foal already on their produce records and are in foal to Coolmore's multiple Grade I-winning young sire Tiz the Law.

In just a few weeks, Bellafina and Donna Veloce will be offered along with their first foals at the Fasig-Tipton 'Night of the Stars' Sale. Their consignor Reiley McDonald of Eaton Sales is a firm believer that mares of this quality do not come around often.

“I've been doing this for 35 years and I can tell you that this is so exciting to me,” he said. “To be a part of it and sell mares like this really doesn't happen every day. My partner Ben McElroy was very instrumental in helping purchase these mares. You'll never see a horse that Ben has bought that is not stunningly beautiful and that is the case with these two mares.”

Kaleem Shah and his buying team landed both mares at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale. Bellafina sold for $800,00 in 2018 and the following year, Donna Veloce brought the same price after working the co-fastest breeze time in :9 4/5.

“It's rare in the Thoroughbred industry when a plan comes to fruition and is executed perfectly,” reflected Fasig-Tipton's Boyd Browning. “In back-to-back years, Kaleem and his team did that at the Gulfstream 2-Year-Old In Training Sale. Bellafina was one of the most brilliant performers that we had in the under-tack show that year and she looked beautiful on the end of a shank. Donna Veloce was another exceptional performer at the breeze show and back at the barn, she was a magnificent physical individual. Kaleem and his team accomplished what they set out to do, which was to buy the best fillies at the sale and achieve great success on the racetrack.”

Bellafina was the first of the pair to get her start with trainer Simon Callaghan. She broke her maiden at second asking in the GII Sorrento S., where the daughter of Quality Road bested the field by over four lengths, and she continued her win streak that year in the GI Del Mar Debutante S. and the GI Chandelier S.

Much of what made Bellafina such a juvenile success, McDonald said, was her outstanding physical.

“She was of good size as a 2-year-old,” he explained. “She was not a small, petite filly. She was a big filly with tons of speed. She had the hip and the shoulder to give her all the speed, but the leg and the length to carry her a distance. She won everywhere from six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth.”

In 2019, Bellafina was the best of the West in her division, reeling off wins in the GII Santa Ynez S., GII Las Virgenes S. and GI Santa Anita Oaks, and later running a close second in the GI Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. At four, she claimed her seventh graded stakes score in the GIII Desert Stormer S. before retiring with over $1.6 million in earnings.




“I think what Bellafina had that set her apart was tactical speed,” McDonald said. “She had the ability to run fast, but also the ability to turn it off and on. That was Bellafina. She's also by a sire, Quality Road, that gives speed and heart to his racehorses. You put her pedigree together with that kind of physical and heart, that's what made her so special.”

Bellafina was bred to Uncle Mo and produced her first foal this year. That filly will sell as Hip 128 at the 'Night of the Stars' Sale while her dam will go through the ring later in the evening as Hip 264.

After that, Bellafina's former stablemate Donna Veloce will sell as Hip 281.

Donna Veloce joined the Callaghan barn in 2018 and turned heads soon after in her flashy debut at Santa Anita. The Uncle Mo filly took the lead early and looked the winner throughout, breaking away from the field in the stretch to win by over nine lengths.

“I remember watching that and thinking that this was not only a TDN Rising Star, this was a world-class rising star,” McDonald recalled. “The way she did it was like an older horse. I think we knew right then she was very special.”

Donna Veloce faced a tough task in her second start when she took on the best of her division in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but she was impressive even in defeat when she fought to run second by a neck to British Idiom (Flashback). She was second in the GI Starlet S. to close out her juvenile season and then returned a winner at three in the GIII Santa Ysabel S.

Just as he described with Bellafina, McDonald said that Donna Veloce's physical strengths led to her achievements on the racetrack.

Donna Veloce against a Kentucky autumn backdrop | Sara Gordon

“She has a beautiful neck and shoulder set and plenty of length to carry that speed over a distance,” he explained. “She has a massive hip and quarter on her as well.”

McDonald described Donna Veloce's first foal, a filly by Justify, as a “magnificent foal.” That youngster will sell as Hip 159 at Fasig-Tipton.

He said he expects Donna Veloce, whose second and third dams are both Grade I winners, to draw interest from all types of buyers.

“She certainly hits our American market right between the eyes,” McDonald said. “She has the looks, the American pedigree, and she was a Classic distance horse. I think she has all the qualifications to be extremely attractive to buyers where there is dirt racing, but bred in any way you might wish, for turf racing as well. She has a ton of speed and that will be attractive to buyers all over the world.”

Both mares will be offered carrying foals by four-time Grade I winner Tiz the Law. Browning said he believes the son of Constitution has all the potential to be a leading sire once his foals hit the racetrack.

“I believe that Tiz the Law is one of the most underrated stallions prospects that we've come across in my professional career,” he said. “He had the misfortune of being brilliant on the racetrack in 2020 during the COVID year. He won the GI Champagne S. by open lengths in 2019 and his resume that he put together in 2020 was truly remarkable. He had four consecutive graded stakes wins and his average margin of victory was greater than three lengths in each of those races.”

Tiz the Law's pedigree is very intriguing as well,” Browning continued. “He's by Constitution, who we're seeing emerge as one of the top stallions in North America. Interestingly, Tiz the Law is out of a graded stakes-winning mare on turf and she comes from the family of Favorite Trick, who was named Horse of the Year as a 2-year-old, so you get this great combination of precocity and stamina, turf influences and dirt influences. It's a really unique package.”

Tiz the Law is a beautiful horse and I think he has every chance to make it in a big way,” McDonald echoed before adding that he is eager to get both mares out in front of buyers. “They're incredible mares, both extremely good 2-year-olds, and I think that when we put them in front of the public, that's when they will sell themselves.”

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