For the Reporter
Bella Mia out-dueled Ima Happy Cat and edged away for a 2¼-length victory Sunday in the $50,000 Kent Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Emerald Downs.
With regular rider Julien Couton aboard at 119 pounds, Bella Mia ran 6½ furlongs in 1:15.95 and paid $6, $2.40 and $2.20. Blaine Wright – saddling his third straight stakes winner at the meet – is the winning trainer for owners John and Janene Maryanski of Auburn.
Bella Mia, last year’s track and state champion 2-year-old filly, now has four stakes wins at Emerald Downs. She also turned the tables on Ima Happy Cat, who defeated Bella Mia by 2½ lengths in the Seattle Stakes last month.
A Washington-bred by Harbor the Gold-Bella Campana, Bella Mia is 5-1-0 in seven starts with earnings of $128,548, including $27,225 for Sunday’s victory.
Bella Mia earned the victory, dueling with Ima Happy Cat through fractions of :21.92 and :43.79 for the quarter-mile and half-mile. The fillies entered the stretch head and head, Bella Mia inside and Ima Happy Cat outside, with Bella Mia finally gaining the upper hand past mid-stretch and drawing away to win decisively.
“She really improved from her first start last month,” Couton said. “She was on top of her game today. She responded when I asked her.”
Ima Happy Cat, the 4-5 favorite ridden by Rocco Bowen at 123 lbs, paid $2.60 and $2.10. A California-bred by Smiling Tiger-Infernal McGoon, she earned $9,900 and is 2-2-1 in five starts with earnings of $63,605.
Downwind, also trained by Wright, was 1¾ lengths back in third and paid $3.60 to show. Diamonds R, Brilliant Bird and Spot On completed the order of finish.
Wright now has 14 stakes wins the last two seasons at Emerald Downs, including three of the first five this season: Invested Prospect, co-owned by the Maryanskis, led gate-to-wire in the May 28 Hastings Stakes for older fillies and mares, and Riser scored a gate-to-wire victory in the June 3 Governor’s Stakes and is a top contender for the $200,000 Longacres Mile (G3)in August.
Next for 3-year-old fillies is the $50,000 Irish Day Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Sunday, July 1.
Notes: Frank Lucarelli saddled three winners Sunday and is about to overtake Tim McCanna for No. 1 on the track’s all all-time wins list. McCanna ranks No. 1 with 927 wins, followed by Lucarelli (919), Howard Belvoir (743), Jim Penney (662) and Doris Harwood (540). … Couton, Kevin Orozco and Erick Lopez rode two winners apiece. … Couton had multiple winners all three days this week and jumped to third place with 19 wins. … Rocco Bowen rode one winner Sunday and leads Orozco 36-23 atop the standings. … Jeff Metz leads Lucarelli 19-14 in the trainers, standings. … Golden Gate Fields concluded its winter/spring meeting Sunday, with Abel Cedillo winning the riding title and Jonathan Wong edging Jerry Hollendorfer for the training title. Northern California fair racing begins Friday with Oak Tree at Pleasanton. … Live racing resumes Friday with first post 6:30 p.m. Saturday’s card is the first 5 p.m. start of the season and features the $50,000 Washington State Legislators Stakes for older fillies and mares.