Ciao Bella, who captured her career debut at Gulfstream last season at the mile distance, wore blinkers for the first time and returned to the main track after four winless starts on turf.
Ciao Bella, who is likely to return in the $150,000 Rampart (G3) on March 30, stalked the pace before drawing off to win by 5 ¾ lengths. The even-money favorite ran the mile in 1:34.85 under Javier Castellano. Lexington Pearl finished second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Clarinda.
Hierro returned from an eight-month layoff with a thoroughly dominating triumph in the third race.
Formerly trained by Steve Asmussen, who saddled the son of Hard Spun for a victory in the Derby Trial (G3) at Churchill Downs last spring, Hierro was making his first start for Pletcher, who is well on his way to winning his 10th consecutive training title at Gulfstream Park.
The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt, who was the 7-5 favorite in a field of six, stalked the hotly contested pace before drawing clear in the stretch to win by 3 ¼ lengths under a confident John Velazquez.
“Coming off the layoff and to be as sharp as he was today and the way he did everything, it was very nice,” Velazquez said. “He did everything I wanted him to do. I couldn’t ask for a better race.
Hierro, who is owned by Stonestreet Stables, ran seven furlongs in 1:22.37. Rightfully So closed from far back to finish second, 2 ¾ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Love to Run.
Who’s Hot: Pletcher’s two victories gave him 36 for the meeting, giving him a 16-win edge over Bill Mott.
Jockey Elvis Trujillo rode a pair of winners: Let’s Call a Truce ($9.20) in the fourth and Oxford Street ($16) in the 10th.
Super Hi-5 Carryover: $16,980.40
10-Cent Rainbow 6 Carryover: $3,107,159.02