Pizza Bianca headlines Hilltop Stakes

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 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.

Pizza Bianca

Pizza Bianca won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Photo courtesy Maryland Jockey Club.