Hilltop Score Serves As Royal Ascot Tuneup For Pizza Bianca - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Hilltop Score Serves As Royal Ascot Tuneup For Pizza Bianca

Pizza Bianca (left) rallies late to win the Hilltop at Pimlico

Bobby Flay's homebred Pizza Bianca, upset winner of the 2021 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), swept to the lead down the center of the track and pulled clear for a 1 ¾-length triumph in Friday's $100,000 Hilltop at historic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.

The 50th running of the Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the grass was the second of six stakes, four graded, worth $1.05 million in purses on a sensational 14-race Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Day program headlined by the 98th edition of the 1 1/8-mile fixture for 3-year-old fillies.

Racing for just the second time since her Breeders' Cup upset last November, Pizza Bianca was unhurried in the early stages settling sixth under Florent Geroux as Murph took the field through splits of 23.31 and 47.56 seconds pressed by Pizza Bianca's Christophe Clement-trained stablemate, Diamond Hands.

Murph was still in front turning for home when Geroux gave Pizza Bianca her cue, tipping her to the outside around horses and setting her down for a drive through the stretch. She passed the wire in 1:36.54 over a firm course, 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Diamond Hands, who held off Vergara by a head for second. It was another neck back to Lady Puchi in fourth.

Determined Gold, Murph, Hail To and Determined Star completed the order of finish.

Pizza Bianca broke her maiden last summer at Saratoga before running second in the Natalma (G1) at Woodbine in her stakes debut. She was given the winter off following her half-length triumph in the Breeders' Cup, returning to be second as the favorite in the Memories of Silver April 24 at Aqueduct.

It was the first Hilltop victory for the New York-based Clement, while Geroux previously won the race in 2016 with Gone Away.

The Hilltop is a shortened version of Pimlico's long-standing nickname, Old Hilltop, in recognition of a large infield hill prominent for viewing races. The hill was leveled in 1938.

$100,000 Hilltop Quotes

Winning owner Bobby Flay, Pizza Bianca: “[Jockey] Jose [Ortiz] did exactly what we were hoping for. She broke; he kind of put her to sleep around the track; asked her a little bit; and she performed very nice. Really, a sigh of relief, but also just a beautiful performance.”

“When you are 2-5 you just want to fire. I'm always nervous, but she performed very nicely. It was nice to see.”

(Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June is next)

“I ran in that race in 2011 with More Than Real. She didn't run that well, but it doesn't matter. It was an amazing experience. To me, this is what this is all about. These horses can take you on experiences of a lifetime.”

Winning jockey Jose Ortiz, Pizza Bianca: “The flow of the race was way different from last time [in Memories of Silver at Aqueduct]. Last time, it was a much slower pace. They went in :50 [for the half-mile], and she was pretty close and I had to move a little early, three wide. I think today was much better – the way she wants to run: sit back, let the speed develop and come with one run.”

“Honestly, down the backside, they went a little bit too fast early on. I felt I was in a perfect position. I knew from the five-eighths pole that I was sitting on a lot of horse. I felt very confident from that point.”

“She ran a very good race last time off the bench. It was a pretty tough deal. She was ready, just got beat. But I think it was circumstances of the race that got her beat. She was a little keen off the layoff. Today, she was more relaxed. I sat on her out of the gate, just to let her know that we weren't going anywhere close to the pace.”

Hilltop winner Pizza Bianca
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