February 2, 2023

Amalfi Coast, Painting meet again in the Bessarabian Stakes

Amalfi Coast winning the Sweet Briar Too S. at Woodbine - Michael Burns Photo
Amalfi Coast winning the Sweet Briar Too S. at Woodbine - Michael Burns Photo

It’s safe to say Saturday’s $175,000 Bessarabian (G2) at Woodbine is shaping up to be among the most competitive races of the weekend.

Seven of the eight entrants are proven stakes winners, with four achieving signature victories at the graded stakes level. Chief among them are Amalfi Coast and Painting, who finished 1-2 in the 2019 Bessarabian. Both fillies are returning to the 7-furlong race in fine form; Amalfi Coast romped by 4 1/2 lengths in the Sweet Briar Too S. at Woodbine last month, while Painting was a determined winner of the Ontario Fashion (G3) two starts back.

Painting is the 2-1 morning line favorite after finishing third with a troubled trip in the Sweet Briar Too, but competition runs deep in the Bessarabian. Souper Escape split Amalfi Coast and Painting when second in the Sweet Briar Too and previously beat them both in the Seaway (G3) during the summer. Trainer Michael Trombetta has been on fire at Woodbine, going 10-for-24 (42%) this season, suggesting Souper Escape will be a formidable factor again on Saturday.

Whereas Amalfi Coast, Painting, and Souper Escape have squared off on several occasions this season, Florida Oaks (G3) winner Outburst is an intriguing newcomer to the scene. After facing tough company on turf in the U.S., the capable 3-year-old will cut back in distance and transition to Tapeta for the Bessarabian, her first start north of the border.

Artie’s Princess is ascending the class ladder, but the speedy Wesley Ward trainee is a neck away from being undefeated in five starts over the Woodbine Tapeta. A 3 3/4-length romp in the Ruling Angel S. indicates the Ken and Sarah Ramsey is ready for bigger and better things.

Pure front-runner Jakarta will be a major pace player after battling to a third-place effort in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3) at Keeneland, though she’s never run over a synthetic track. Boardroom offers contrasting strengths; a capable stretch runner, she rallied from behind a fast pace to win Woodbine’s 7-furlong Duchess S. on Tapeta.

Even longshot Our Secret Agent warrants respect in the deep Bessarabian field, considering she’s placed second twice at the stakes level. The improving 3-year-old hasn’t missed the exacta in four starts over the Woodbine Tapeta for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse and will be guided by high-percentage jockey Rafael Hernandez.

Post time for the Bessarabian is 5:58 p.m. ET.