Saturday, February 20, 2010 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . February 20, 2010 . . . Helen Belen broke well and never looked back in the $50,000 Valdale Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday, cruising on the lead throughout the mile and winning by 14-3/4 lengths.
Helen Belen broke third in the field of 10 and led at the quarter-mile mark but was still just a couple of lengths in front after half. Those who waited for her to tire waited in vain, and she increased her lead without challenge. Hot Citizen was best of the rest, a length ahead of Offlee Funny in third.
The Valdale was Helen Belen's first attempt at two turns but trainer Bill Denzik Jr. had no concerns about the distance. "She's a big, long, lanky kind of filly, and she's by Five Star Day out of a mare by Cherokee Run, and they're usually milers," Denzik said. "She's been breaking a little slow going short so I thought at least she'd be up in the race a little more than she had been. She's got good airways and she's always finished strong. In her last start [the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes] she broke slow and ran green, and she still got third and was coming at the end. She scoped with a little bit of a lung infection after that race, too."
With the filly sometimes slow to break, Denzik and jockey Sal Gonzalez Jr. had a game plan in mind, but Helen Belen had ideas of her own. "We thought about possibly being off the pace but she broke good, and you have to think about Plan B and even C. Nobody came up to me, and we were just cruising out there,” said Gonzalez. "I was just a passenger. She's been running short and going a lot faster" than the moderate :24.21, :47.76 and 1:12.28 pace she set in the Valdale. Final time was 1:37.96.
Fourth and following were Mesa Rose, All County, the even-money favorite Sister Resistor, Seasoned, Henry's Posse, Sweden, and Lisa's Kitten. Cactus Cadillac, For Royalty, Gerwinii, and Southern Sonata scratched.
The bettors' sixth choice at 11-1, Helen Belen paid $24.20, $10.20, and $6.60.
The Valdale is the first stakes win for Helen Belen, who was bred in Kentucky by Dr. and Mrs. R. S. West and Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie Miller. She is owned by Mike Schnell's Desk Farms LLC, for whom she has earned $55,500. She now has three wins and one third from four career starts, all at Turfway.
Denzik expects to bring Helen Belen back to Turfway for the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks, to be run March 27 on the Lane's End Stakes undercard.