Via Villaggio enters stakes ranks
Steve Beneto's Via Villaggio accelerated into contention on the far turn and out-dueled Sister Moon to the wire in Saturday's Grade 3, $98,000 Railbird Stakes at Hollywood Park, notching her first stakes victory with a half-length tally in the seven-furlong test for sophomore fillies. Martin Pedroza was up on the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained winner. Only four runners faced the starter and Sister Moon was hammered down to 1-9 odds in the short field. The heavy favorite seized the initiative shortly after the break, sprinting to a short lead as Dijarvo chased her in second through an opening quarter-mile in :22 4/5, and Via Villaggio stalked the front runners in third down the backstretch. Sister Moon continued to show the way after a half-mile in :46 2/5, but Via Villaggio offered a strong move along the rail on the far turn to reach even terms turning for home. The two fillies dueled until deep stretch, with Via Villaggio finding more on the inside to prevail late. She stopped the teletimer in 1:23 on the Cushion Track and paid $23 to win as the 10-1 second choice. "It was a beautiful trip," Pedroza said.. "When I saw that filly (Sister Moon) getting out, I thought maybe Garrett (Gomez) was just setting me up to get in there, but I could see she kept drifting out. I didn't want to take any chances on getting stopped, so I got up inside when I could. It was better to take a chance and move a little early rather than having to check and lose my momentum." Sister Moon easily held second, 4 1/2 lengths better than Dijarvo, and Lady Fairbanks trailed throughout. Killer Graces was scratched. Via Villaggio needed six starts to break her maiden, capturing a maiden special weight at Golden Gate Fields on New Year's Eve, and followed with an entry-level allowance/optional claiming score over the Tapeta track. She entered the Railbird off a pair of unplaced efforts in turf stakes and nearly doubled her career earnings to $121,070 from a 10-3-3-2 line. Bred in Kentucky by Michael Lynch, Via Villaggio sold for $300,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September sale. The Bernardini filly is out of the Grade 2-winning Hoh Buzzard, a daughter of Alhaarth who counts Group 3 hero and multiple Group 1-placed Ashdown Express as a half-brother. Hollendorfer said Via Villaggio will be pointed to the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks on June 23.