Lot 67 of the 2019 Inglis April Digital Sale saw a four-year-old mare named Bella Vella re-sold to South Australian pro punter John Kelton for just $22,500.
At that stage, her career record read 17: 3-4-3, she had already had three trainers and her online selling point was solely directed on her broodmare prospects rather than a rejuvenated racing career.
‘Good looking multiple Sydney placed racing/ broodmare prospect with a pedigree… has the looks, race record, sire and pedigree to add value to any commercial broodmare band,’ her description read.
She was a tried horse, heading to the breeding barn and ready to embark on a new career at stud, but after failing to get in foal with 2015 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Runner-up Criterion who was infertile at the time, a window of opportunity opened.
That opportunity was taken up by Adelaide-based trainer Will Clarken and his team, and fast forward just over a year and Bella Vella would become the first horse ever purchased from an online auction to win a Group 1.
“John (Kelton) is my biggest owner, we all identified her, a couple at the stud, a bloodstock agent and David Jolly,” Clarken said.
“We liked her, and they liked her as well.
“So, we decided to do it together.”
Bella Vella made an immediate impact upon return under Clarken. She won her second start back by three lengths, ventured east to run at Caulfield, and after winning again back home she came to The Valley for the first time to contest the Ladbrokes 55 Second Challenge on Manikato Stakes Night.
Clarken could not have been certain what level of horse he had at that stage, but after bolting in by two-and-a-half lengths, it was no surprise The Valley would prove to be Bella Vella’s primary happy hunting ground.
She boasted a 50% winning strike rate at The Valley, with a record of 6: 3-1-1 including a third in last year’s Group 1 Charter Keck Cramer Moir Stakes.
“The tempo in the races and the strathayr surface really suited her.
“She liked a bit of cushion under her feet being a Commands mare, and I think the combination was the key at The Valley,” Clarken said of her affinity with the track.
Bella Vella would return to The Valley later that season to contest the Ladbrokes 55 Second Challenge Final, and coincidently she would go on to win by the exact same margin of two-and-a-half lengths.
Only this time she would post the fastest time of the 2019/20 season, running a sizzling 54.84 seconds and delivering her trainer the $55,000 cheque for first prize.
“The cash was very helpful in building the business.
“I honestly think it’s a great initiative. It really is a bonus for the trainer.
“We put a lot of money back in the business and to be able to buy and speculate more horses, it just made the everyday running of the business a lot easier.”
Bella Vella went on to win the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes at Morphettville at odds of $41, but Clarken says coming back to The Valley in the spring and winning the Group 2 Mittys McEwen Stakes was just as special.
“I would say the Sangster and her win in the McEwen were on par.
“Because she came back after going to a new level and was able to reproduce that performance in a really high-grade race in Melbourne.
“That was a big thrill. So even though one was a Group 1 and one was a Group 2, I was equally proud of her in both.”
Bella Vella ends her career with a record of 34: 10-5-5, $901,110 in prizemoney and remains Will Clarken’s first and only Group 1 winner to date, something the Morphettville-based trainer will forever be thankful for.
“Amazing. Just to get your first Group 1 winner is a lot of weight off your back.
“It creates more profile throughout your stable.”
Clarken confirmed Bella Vella will now be sold for a third time at the Magic Million Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale, and with a career at stud all but certain, this time around he described her best in this one sentence:
“She was just all heart, and she had a unique ability to really want to compete.”