10/25/2012 5:10PM

Belmont Park: Regalo Mia looking for turnaround in Banner Gala

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Tom Keyser
Regalo Mia (left) gets edged by Better Lucky in the Sands Point Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – As if losing three stakes by a nose, neck, and a neck during the winter and spring wasn’t frustrating enough, Regalo Mia missed her entire summer because of illness.

With a change of seasons, hopefully comes a change of fortune as Regalo Mia begins her fall campaign in Saturday’s $85,000 Banner Gala Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles over Belmont’s inner turf.

Regalo Mia is 0 for 4 this year with two seconds and two thirds. Three of those losses came by a combined half-length, including a nose loss to Better Lucky in the Grade 2 Sands Point here on May 28. Her other two losses came to the undefeated Dayatthespa, recent winner of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland.

Trainer Michelle Nihei shipped Regalo Mia to California for the American Oaks in July, but the filly had to be scratched because of a temperature. That illness morphed into pneumonia.

“It took two solid months to get over that,” Nihei said. “Fortunately, it wasn’t a soundness issue.”

Though Regalo Mia is still eligible for a first-level allowance race, Nihei preferred the idea of running in a stakes restricted to 3-year-olds as opposed to likely having to take on older horses in an allowance.

Nihei loves the idea that this race is 1 1/8 miles.

“She’s all about the distance,” Nihei said.

Eddie Castro will ride Regalo Mia from post 4.

Thunderous Lady is 3 for 4 in her career and comes off a first-level allowance win at Laurel for Mike Trombetta, whose horses have run very well at this meet.

Twirl, an Irish-bred daughter of Galileo, makes her North American debut for trainer Bill Mott. She went 2 for 8 in Europe for Aidan O’Brien.

Zultanite wheels back nine days after winning an allowance here on Oct. 18. Angegreen, trained by Graham Motion, was Group 2 stakes-placed in Italy but finished last as the 5-2 favorite in the Grade  3 Pucker Up in her U.S. debut for trainer Graham Motion.

Sea Island and Baffle Me make their turf debuts in this spot.

Upgrade on way to Breeders’ Cup

A few hours before saddling Regalo Mia, Nihei will put Upgrade on a plane bound for Southern California and next week’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

Upgrade, who won the Grade 3 Jaipur at Belmont in June, is coming off a nose loss in the Rob N Gin overnight stakes at Belmont on Oct. 12.

“I feel confident style-wise that he suits the Turf Sprint,” Nihei said. “He ran a really good race, and I’m going to bring him into that race with the confidence as if he had won his last race.”

Nihei said she had not yet firmed up a rider for Upgrade.