Pizza Bianca Looks to Return to Winning Ways in $100,000 Hilltop

Pizza Bianca Looks to Return to Winning Ways in $100,000 Hilltop

Evenly-Matched Field of 11 to Contest $100,000 The Very One

BALTIMORE – Bobby Flay’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf (G1) winner from last year Pizza Bianca will headline the 50th running of the one-mile $100,000 Hilltop Stakes Friday at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The Hilltop, for 3-year-old fillies, and the $100,000 The Very One for fillies and mares 3 and up sprinting five furlongs, are the turf stakes on the 14-race card on the eve of the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1). The main event on Friday’s program is the 98th running of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies.

The Hilltop will be the second start for Pizza Bianca since she ended up in the winner’s circle at the Breeders’ Cup. That was one of the more popular wins on the two-day Breeders’ Cup program as it exorcised 24 years of frustration for trainer Christophe Clement. Before that win, he had gone 0-for-40 in his training career at racing’s World Series.

“That was fun,” Clement said. “She has always been a nice filly. Before her maiden win [last June 22 at Saratoga] we knew she was a nice filly.”

Pizza Bianca had two wins and a second as a 2-year-old. She started this season with a second-place finish as the 4-5 favorite in the ungraded Memories of Silver at Aqueduct on April 22.

“She got beat by a nice filly [Consumer Spending],” Clement said. “The winner had a perfect trip and ran a good race. We ran OK. We just got beat. I thought she was pretty fit the first time out; maybe she was a bit rusty. There are no more excuses now.”

Pizza Bianca, a daughter of Fastnet Rock, will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, who has been aboard for her last two starts.

If all goes well in the Hilltop, Pizza Bianca will be on her way to Royal Ascot in England for the Coronation Stakes (G1) next month, Clement said.

Pizza Bianca has had two works at Belmont Park since the Memories of Silver, the most recent being a four-furlong move in 52.10 seconds last Friday.

“If would be nice to see if she can settle and finish with the explosive turn of foot that she showed as a 2-year-old,” Clement said.

Clement also entered Robert Masiello and Steven Rocco’s Diamond Hands, a daughter of Frosted, to the Hilltop.

“She is a nice filly,” he said. “She ran three times last year and broke her maiden in the third start.”

Clement gave Diamond Hands the winter off and she resumed training in Florida in mid-March. After six works at the Payson Park Training Center, the filly has had two works at Belmont, the most recent being a four-furlong drill in 49.71 seconds last Monday.

Irad Ortiz Jr. has taken the call on Diamond Hands.

Trainer Graham Motion, who has won the Hilltop five times – including last year’s edition with Alda - will saddle Gary Broad’s Vergara this year. Motion is hoping the daughter of Noble Mission can atone for an eighth-place finish in the Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park on April 2. It was her first start this year and her first try on a synthetic track.

Motion says the bad performance was all on him.

“It was stupid of a trainer to send her all the way to Kentucky to run from the 12-hole off a layoff,” Motion said. “It was ridiculous. I don’t know what I was thinking. She was completely compromised. A silly move. I think we will, hopefully, see the proper Vergara on Friday.”

Luis Saez will ride Vergara. He was on board when she won the ungraded Tepin at Aqueduct in her final start as a 2-year-old on Nov 28.

Also entered in the eight-horse field are Determined Gold, Determined Star, Hail To, Lady Puchi and Murph.

Evenly Matched Field of 11 to Contest $100,000 The Very One

Trainer Christophe Clement says he has Jim Bakke’s and Gerry Isbister’s Honey Pants right where he wants the 4-year-old gray filly, sprinting on the grass in Friday’s $100,000 The Very One at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The five-furlong The Very One saw 12 horses entered including Hey Mamaluke, entered for main track only.

“Honey Pants is a nice filly and is improving all the time,” Clement said. “I probably ran her a bit too far last year. She is a sprinter. She has never won a stake, but she has placed in a stake. She deserves to win a stake.”

The daughter of Cairo Prince has raced 10 times on the grass and has three wins and four seconds. Three of the runner-up finishes came in ungraded stakes races.

This wide-open race also attracted the Mike Maker-trained Phantom Vision, who is owned by Albert Frassetto. In her last start, the Declaration of War filly was no factor in the 5 ½-furlong Giant’s Causeway April 16 at Keeneland, finishing eighth. Before that, Phantom Vision won a pair of off-the-turf allowance springs.

“The Giant’s Causeway probably had the best filly and mare turf sprinters in the country,” Maker said. “They all showed up; she was in just a bit over her head and she should appreciate the class drop.”

Phantom Vision has a win, a second and a third in six grass starts.

Maryland-bred Can the Queen, a winner of four of 10 career starts on grass, will return to face fillies after a fourth-place finish against the boys in her first start of 2022, the King T. Leatherbury April 23 at Laurel Park. She is owned by Joanne Shankle.

“She’s coming out of a really tough race,” trainer Rudy Sanchez-Salomon said. “She lost to the very nice horse of Graham Motion’s [True Valour]. He is a very nice horse and she was competing with him pretty much until the end. She fought hard against the boys; I am really excited about her.”

Also entered are Dendrobia, who was ninth against the boys in the Leatherbury; Payntdembluesway, a winner of nine of 15 career starts on grass; the front-running Princess Kokachin, making her first start on grass; Adelaide Miss, a winner the only time she tried this distance; West Virginia-bred Door Buster; 2021 Maryland Million Ladies’ winner Epic Idea, eighth in this race last year; Spun Glass, making her first start since September; and Whispurring Kitten, unraced since October 28.