MISS GRILLO S. | PURSE: $200,000 | 2-YEAR-OLDS | FILLIES | GRADE 3 | 1 1/16-MILES (TURF)
James Covello, Thomas Coleman and DMZ Racing Stable's Testa Rossi made her U.S. debut a winning one on Sunday when capturing Belmont Park's Grade 3, $200,000 Miss Grillo by a nose under jockey Jose Lezcano. The juvenile daughter of Dr Fong had previously only raced in France, but made her stateside bow here out of new trainer Chad Brown's shedrow.
Lezcano allowed Testa Rossi to settle in the back as Echale Salsita led the way through fractions of :23 3/5, :47 1/5 and 1:12 on the backstretch. Lezcano nudged his mount along into the five path around the five-sixteenths pole and then set her down to take over with just a furlong remaining. About that time Luis Saez aboard Sky Painter was urging his filly along, and the dark bay miss quickly cut into Testa Rossi's lead.
The winner dug in to just get her nose in front on the wire in a final time of 1:41 3/5 for 1 1/16 miles on Belmont's firm Widener turf. She paid $12.60 to win as the 5-1 third choice.
"She broke good, and I let her settle back," Lezcano explained. "At the half-mile I angled out a little bit, and I had to decide if I had to go early. She showed me a lot of class. She pulled up a little bit (when she made the lead), but when she saw (Sky Painter) on the outside she gave a little more."
Testa Rossi gave Brown a sweep of the two juvenile turf stakes at Big Sandy on Sunday, just one race after Bobby's Kitten took the Pilgrim for owner/breeder Ken and Sarah Ramsey with Javier Castellano aboard. Brown's other entrant in the Miss Grillo, 9-5 favorite Granny Mc's Kitten, finished fourth.
"You never know until you run them," Brown stated. "Her works were good -- they weren't great -- but you know what? She's a good-looking horse, she's got good form and every week she seems to be improving. The idea was to go ahead and enter her, knowing she's on the improve.
"I wasn't concerned about the extra distance (stretching out from seven furlongs). I have a bunch of these fillies and I picked the two I thought would give me the best chance to win, and she was one of them."
As for fourth-placer Granny Mc's Kitten, Brown added, "Granny Mc's Kitten missed her last work. She had a great two days of training this week. In hindsight it might have compromised her a bit. If she has the credentials to get into the Breeders' Cup I sure would like to take her. Maybe she'll have smoother training going into that race."
The conditioner didn't mention whether Testa Rossi would utilize her automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf that came via the Miss Grillo being a "Win and You're In" race.
Sky Painter was four lengths up on stablemate Dancing House when hitting the wire, with the latter holding Granny Mc's Kitten to fourth by a half-length.
"It was a tough beat," admitted Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains both Sky Painter and Dancing House. "Both of them ran very well. We're pleased with both. We were unlucky to lose a tough photo, but congratulations to the winning team. We'll talk about the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf."
Duff One, Morethanawarning, Echale Salsita, Miss Frost, Bikini Beauty, Selenite and Sea Bubble completed the order under the wire.
Bred in France by Barbara Moser, Testa Rossi is out of the winning Dancing Spree mare Peggy Lane. The chestnut filly just missed in her April 28 racing bow at Lyon in France, then finished fifth by only a length over that same heavy course on May 10. She broke her maiden on June 2 at Lyon and has been unbeaten in all three starts since, including her French finale at Maisons-Laffitte on July 7.
Testa Rossi has racked up $175,422 in career earnings and her line now stands at 6-4-1-0.