01/07/2017 5:49PM

Bellavais works hard to earn first stakes win in Ginger Brew

Barbara D. Livingston
Bellavais, under John Velazquez, defeats Indian Mantuana by three-quarters of a length in the Ginger Brew for 3-year-old fillies.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Jimmy Toner’s prowess with turf fillies is well-documented. That trend looks like it will continue again this season with the promising 3-year-old Bellavais, who became a stakes winner in her first attempt after overcoming trouble to register a three-quarter length decision over former claimer Indian Mantuana in Saturday’s $100,000 Ginger Brew at Gulfstream Park.

Bellavais is a homebred daughter of Tapit out of the Grade 3 winner La Cloche and a granddaughter of the multiple Grade 1 winner Memories of Silver, both of whom were trained by Toner during their racing careers. Bellavais came into the Ginger Brew never having crossed the finish line first in three previous starts, although she was awarded her maiden victory by a disqualification in her 2-year-old finale at Aqueduct.

With John Velazquez aboard for the first time, Bellavais saved ground while racing in mid-pack for the opening five furlongs of the 7 1/2-furlong Ginger Brew, burst through a narrow opening between the leaders to launch her bid in early stretch, and readily wore down the pacesetting India Mantuana despite losing her action briefly and tossing her head when struck in the face with the stick by the rider of the tiring leader. Lady Alexandra eased out for the drive and rallied belatedly to finish third.

Bellavais, owned by Phillips Racing Partnership, completed the distance over a firm course in 1:44.49 and paid $8.20.

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“I thought she jumped something, but Johnny said the rider hit her, that’s why she threw her head up in the air,” said Toner. “She’s a tough little filly. She’s small but she’s very competitive and that’s what makes up for her lack of size. She’s as agile as can be and very determined. This filly hasn’t run a bad race.”