it only featured four starters, the Shine Again restricted dirt stakes
on July 21 looked about as tough as a race can get, with Grade 1 winners
Better Lucky, Grace Hall and 2011 Juvenile Filly Champion My Miss
Aurelia hooking up in an epic battle.
Lucky, a distant 12 lengths back on the turn for home, unleashed a
tremendous charge though the lane to mow down the field in the final
strides and beat Grace Hall by a head with My Miss Aurelia a half-length
Better Lucky, the race was her first start following an
uncharacteristic eighth-place finish a month before in the Grade 1
Longines Just a Game on the grass. My Miss Aurelia, meantime, had not
run since March 2013. Now, the two will clash again with much more at
stake in the 36th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
seven-furlong race for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up is a
Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event, with the winner
gaining an automatic berth into the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly &
Ballerina is also the third leg of a special $1 million Guaranteed All
Stakes Pick 4, which includes the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa; the
Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King's Bishop; and climaxes with the 145th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers, the "Mid-Summer Derby."
Ballerina and the Travers will be broadcast live on NBC as a part of
the "Summer at Saratoga: Breeders' Cup Challenge Series" beginning at
4:30 p.m. ET.
Ballerina, which drew a field of nine, is by no means a two-horse race.
It also attracted 2013 Grade 1 winner Artemis Agrotera, Grade 2 winner
La Verdad, Grade 3 winner Hot Stones, New York-bred star Willet, and
multiple stakes winner Geeky Gorgeous.
Better Lucky, 4-1 on the morning line, and My Miss Aurelia, the 3-1 favorite, however, are the most accomplished.
Lucky, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare that runs for Godolphin Racing,
has been one of the top female turf milers in the country since winning
the Grade 1 Matriarch in late 2012 at Betfair Hollywood Park. She also
annexed the Grade 1 First lady last year at Keeneland and finished
second earlier this year in the Grade 1 Madison over the Keeneland
however, she has been moved by trainer Tom Albertrani to the dirt in an
attempt to test her versatility and increase her value as a broodmare.
Better Lucky began her career as a dirt runner, placing third in the
Busher Stakes as a 3-year-old, and only moved to the turf when
Albertrani perceived he had found a soft spot in a graded stakes.
After the Shine Again, it's clear Better Lucky runs on anything.
felt like we've accomplished enough with her on the grass - she's won
two Grade 1s - that if she takes back to the dirt as we saw in the Shine
Again, the Ballerina would be a logical race to try her back,"
Albertrani said. "She's been training as well as I've ever seen her."
Lucky showed resiliency and a strong turn of foot rallying from far
back in a short field to win the Shine Again. She figures to have a fast
pace to run at in the Ballerina.
Miss Aurelia, the Stonestreet Stables star who has won three of four
starts at Saratoga, wound up forced to press a half-mile in 44.62
seconds, which was asking a lot of a 5-year-old mare that had been off
since March 2013. Still, she just missed in the race, and trainer Todd
Pletcher expects a top effort in the Ballerina.
think [the Shine Again], hopefully, will move her forward," Pletcher
said. "I thought she ran hard that day. It was a long time since she'd
run, and the complexion of the race forced us to get her involved early.
I think she needed that run, so I've been pleased with the way she's
trained. I thought her last breeze was particularly good and, hopefully,
an indication she's in top form for this."
envisions My Miss Aurelia eventually returning to route races,
especially since she won the 2011 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile
Fillies, 2012 Grade 1 Cotillion and finished second to the great Royal
Delta in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.
Yet, he said the Ballerina was the right race at this time.
just felt like with one seven-furlong race under her belt, the
Ballerina was perhaps a better option than the [Grade 1, $500,000]
Personal Ensign [Invitational at 1 1/8 miles on Friday]," he said. "If
she had had two races . . ."
Linda Rice will run the 7-2 second choice La Verdad in the Ballerina,
and the speedster has won nine of 12 career starts. After reeling off
four straight victories - all in stakes races - the 4-year-old daughter
of Yes It's True caught a sloppy track and the inside post in the Grade 2
Honorable Miss on July 28 at the Spa and wound up fifth, beaten 3 ¼
a six-furlong pace specialist, La Verdad won at a mile at Belmont Park
and finished second in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at seven furlongs
this past winter at Laurel Park.
went poorly, and she still wound up beaten only three lengths," Rice
said. "So, we'll forgive her. I think that seven-eighths may not be her
best distance. I rather it be six or 6 ½, but she's come out of the race
very well and she breezed excellently the other day. How many Grade 1s
do you have for fillies and mares sprinting?"
Asked if La Verdad would gun for the lead, Rice said, "Yes."
raced Artemis Agrotera, 5-1 on the morning line, also is likely to show
speed as she breaks from the rail for owner-breeders Chester and Mary
Broman and trainer Michael Hushion.
3-year-old daughter of Roman Ruler broke her maiden by 11 ¾ lengths
last summer at Saratoga and then took the Grade 1 Frizette in her second
start over stars Sweet Reason and Stopchargingmaria at Belmont Park.
finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Artemis Agrotera
was put away until June, when she returned to finish a disastrous
eighth in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont Park. She came back 1 ½ months
later in a far easier spot, an optional claimer for New York breds at
seven furlongs, and scored by 10 ¼ lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure
just decided that, in my opinion, she fits very well in the race,"
Hushion said, "and for a Grade 1 for all that money, it's time to go
while she's good. If she wasn't rounding out to her old-time form, I
don't think she would have run as well as she did [in the optional
claimer] no matter who she was running against."
6-1, has proven a terror against New York-bred sprinters in her career
and makes a rare foray into open company. In 2012, she just missed in
the Grade 2 Go For Wand by a neck at Belmont Park and finished fourth in
the race last year. She comes off a powerful allowance score at six
furlongs July 30 at the Spa, where she has never missed being in the
exacta in five starts.
Gorgeous, 20-1, recent gate-to-wire winner of the Regret Stakes at
Monmouth Park; Hot Stones, 6-1, who took the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses
Handicap on June 21 at Belmont Park in her only try at seven furlongs;
Voodoo Tales, 15-1; and Kipling's Joy, 30-1, complete the field.