Phil D’Amato has issued a warning to the Del Mar Oaks field when talking about Bellabel’s chances – she can only get better.
The three-year-old will line up in Saturday Grade 1 feature over 1810m with +2000 winning odds with Bovada after saluting by two lengths in her last start, the Grade 2 San Clemente Stakes at the same venue on July 23.
And Del Mar’s current second-rated trainer with 10 wins this season has been delighted with how his filly has looked in trackwork.
“Just the ease at which she does everything,” he told Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, with star Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli to have the ride.
“She just does things so effortlessly, especially in the last two grass works.
“Just displays her turn of foot on cue rather than having to niggle on her and ask her. She’s just much more push button.”
D’Amato and Rispoli are 19-of-53 (36 per cent) all-time together at Del Mar, including 37 times in the money.
The southern California conditioner will have three other runners in the USD$300,000 Del Mar Oaks – Rhea Moon, Island of Love and Sixteen Arches.
No trainer has entered that many in the Oaks since at least 1991.
Sixteen Arches – to be ridden by Abel Cedillo – was runner-up to Bellabel in the San Clemente.
“She’s another filly that’s on the improve,” D’Amato said.
“She finally got a nice clean trip the other day, came running late and I expect a similar race from her.”
D’Amato said it wouldn’t surprise him if Island of Love – with leading Del Mar hoop Juan Hernandez aboard – steals the Oaks with +1200 winning odds.
“She’s just ultra consistent. She’s a filly that can strike at any time,” the star trainer said.
Race favourite Spendarella – with +160 for Graham Motion – likely poses the biggest threat to D’Amato’s hope of winning a second Del Mar Oaks title.
She has won three of her four career starts and comes off an impressive runner-up finish in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Cairo Memories for Bob Hess Jr – with +300 odds with the top betting sites – should also not be dismissed by punters.
She won back-to-back Grade 3 races at Santa Anita before travelling back east and running fifth in the G1 Belmont Oaks at Belmont Park.
“It’s a deep and competitive field,” Hess Jr. said.
“But we have a good post (five) and she loves the distance, loves the surface here so I’m expecting a top effort.”