07/09/2016 3:43PM

Coppa holds off late challenges to win Victory Ride Stakes

Michael Amoruso
Coppa remains undefeated in three starts with her victory Saturday in the Victory Ride Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – There was a part of trainer Phil D’Amato that wanted to run Coppa against Songbird in the Summertime Oaks two weeks ago at Santa Anita. But the more D’Amato thought about it, the more it didn’t sound like such a hot idea.

“I almost wanted to run her against Songbird, but having to run against Songbird, let alone trying two turns for the first time, I thought throwing both of those at her would be a tall order,” D’Amato said.

Instead of having Coppa face the undefeated champion Songbird, D’Amato shipped Coppa across the country to New York, where she made her graded stakes debut a successful one, winning the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes by a neck over Malibu Stacy at Belmont Park on Saturday. It was a head farther back to One True Kiss in third.

In winning the Victory Ride, Coppa remained undefeated in three starts, all at 6 1/2 furlongs. After winning her first two starts on the lead, Coppa showed the ability to sit off horses as, under Joe Talamo, she rated about 1 1/2 lengths off the pace in third before taking the lead in upper stretch and fending off late challenges from Malibu Stacy and One True Kiss.

During the gallop-out, Coppa opened up several lengths on those two.

“That’s what I took most out of this and was most impressed by, was with her rating and kicking on,” D’Amato said from Southern California, where he watched the race via simulcast. “Joe said she was never going to let them pass her and she showed great heart and tenacity. I think she’s still learning. I think today was a valuable education, I think she’ll gain a lot from this.”

Initially, Talamo thought he would be sitting off Appealing Maggie, but that filly scratched. Then Talamo thought he would be sitting off of Behrnik’s Bank. That filly and Lost Raven both went to the front and battled through a quarter in 22.53 seconds and a half-mile in 45.61.

Coppa, who broke from the outside post, was chasing from third but waited for Talamo to ask her before a move to the lead. Coppa took over from Lost Raven and Behrnik’s Bank at the three-sixteenths pole and outlasted her pursuers late.

“If I wanted the lead, I definitely could have had it,” Talamo said. “The last thing I wanted for her to do is to get rank and tough and have them pass us at the end. I was glad to see her rate like she did, and she turned it on down the lane.”

Coppa, a daughter of Yesbyjimminy owned by Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino, covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.23 and returned $3.90 as the odds-on favorite.

Though Coppa was scheduled to fly back to Southern California on Sunday, D’Amato didn’t rule out a return trip to New York for the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on Aug. 6.

“It’s a possibility,” D’Amato said.