First Winner for El Roca
Tara Madgwick - Sunday February 3

Progressive two-year-old filly Bella Mente set herself up for a tilt at stakes company later this month with a determined victory at Matamata on Sunday.

Bella Mente - RAce ImagesThe Shaune Ritchie-trained youngster had finished an unlucky third at the same venue last month when badly interfered with on the home turn.

This time there was no such drama as rider Michael Coleman provided her with a perfect run behind the pacemakers before launching an assault early in the run home. Bella Mente set out after race-favourite Killin, who had assumed control at that point, and in a driving finish she fought best to claim victory in the 1200m contest.

Ritchie was keen for his charge to gain some more experience at the Matamata track as he sets his sights on a tilt at the Gr. 2 J Swap Contractors Ltd. Matamata Breeders' Stakes (1200m) at the venue on February 23.

"We've been thinking about tackling the Breeders' Stakes with her so today has probably helped us make that decision," Ritchie said.

"She is a lovely filly, quite muscular but not too heavy, who can really hit the line hard.

"She has one white sock which does tend to make her action look a little exuberant, but she is a very good mover."

Ritchie had been impressed with how the El Roca filly had come through the stress of her first run after being knocked sideways during the running.

"We gave her a month off after that first run, mainly as a precaution to let her get over the experience," he said.

"As it turned out she was probably less worried about it than we were.

"She had done everything right since then so we were hopeful she could perform today.

"It was a lovely ride by Michael as he got her in a good position and when he really asked her, she put in nicely."

Ritchie is hoping a similar showing in the upcoming Matamata juvenile feature will also add significant value to the Swiss Ace half-sister that he purchased for $100,000 from the Westbury Stud draft on day two of the National Yearling sale last Monday.

"We really like the family, so I was pleased to be able to buy the half-sister at the yearling sale," he said.

"I trained another family member (Bella Gioia) to run second in the 1000 Guineas so we know the family ability is there.

"If Bella Mente could win or place in the Breeders Stakes then it would be a great result all around."

The victory also provided Westbury Stud-based stallion, El Roca, with the first winner from his first crop of racing age. – NZ Racing Desk