April 22, 2024

Heavily favored In Italian makes all in Just a Game

In Italian wins the Just a Game Stakes (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

In Italian ran to her 1-5 odds in notching her second win of the season in Friday’s $485,000 Just a Game (G1) at Belmont Park under Irad Ortiz Jr.

With no other speed to go with her, the five-year-old mare set fractions of :24.47, :47.95, and 1:11.12 while racing well off the rail down the backside. Making her way to the one path before entering the stretch, In Italian kicked clear from her four rivals down the lane and passed the wire 3 3/4 lengths clear of Spendarella, who was followed by Wakanaka, New Year’s Eve, and Speak of the Devil.

“The plan was if she could break well, to get out in front and off the rail so the horses behind her had to make a decision to either challenge a very fast horse pretty wide or you’re going to go up inside of her, which is not a great option either,” said Chad Brown, who trains the daughter of Dubawi for Peter Brant. “I think Irad executed that well.”

In Italian, who captured the April 15 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland by three lengths in her season debut, covered one mile over the firm Widener turf in 1:34 and paid $2.40.

In Italian now heads to Saratoga, where she’s likely to seek a title defense in the Diana (G1) over nine furlongs. It was one of three stakes wins last season for the chestnut, who also claimed the Honey Fox (G3) and First Lady (G1). In Italian also placed in the Just a Game, Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2), and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1).

“I’d say if she’s healthy and comes out of it well, the spacing sure works for us,” said Brown of the July 15 Diana. “She has no problem with the distance like you saw last year.”

In Italian has now won seven of 11 starts with earnings of more than $1.9 million. Bred in England by Fairway Thoroughbreds, In Italian was produced by Group 3 winner Florentina, a Redoute’s Choice half-sister to Group 1 winner Gathering.

Poppy Flower earned the first graded stakes win of her career when nabbing Bubble Rock at the wire of the $200,000 Intercontinental (G3), a six-furlong test for fillies and mares over the inner turf.

Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Poppy Flower won by a nose after covering the course in 1:08.53. Owned by Arnmore Thoroughbreds and trained by Bill Mott, Poppy Flower paid $15. Bubble Rock was three-quarters of a length ahead of Amy C, who was followed by 2-1 favorite Bay Storm in the field of eight.

“She was going to be a half-length in front a couple of jumps past the wire but I wasn’t sure she got there in time,” Mott said. “She’s one of those fillies that shows up every time, but today was an exceptionally good race.”

The Intercontinental was the fourth win in 14 starts for the four-year-old filly, who captured the Stormy Blues S. at Laurel and the Galway S. at Saratoga last season. She’s placed in four other stakes, including a half-length second to Bubble Rock in the May 7 License Fee S., also at Belmont over six furlongs.

Bred in Kentucky by Brenda Harding and Megan Jones, Poppy Flower is by Lea and out of the stakes-placed Nisharora, by Excellent Art.