along through one smashing performance after another, G. Humphrey Watts
Jr.'s Centre Court established herself in the past year as one of the
best turf fillies of her generation.
June 16 last year when she won the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill Downs
the race after breaking her maiden, the 4-year-old daughter of Smart
Strike hit the exacta in seven straight graded stakes races, also
finding the winner's circle in the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga, the
Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill, the Grade 2 Honey Fox at Gulfstream
Park, and, finally the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland.
Centre Court has been off the board in her two most recent starts, and
now she will seek to regain top form against seven other turf
specialists Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 Ketel One Ballston Spa, a 1
1/16-mile race over the inner turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old
and up at Saratoga Race Course.
race, scheduled to go off at 4:38 p.m. as the 10th on the card, is the
second leg of the $1 Million Guaranteed All-Graded Stakes Pick 4, which
includes the Grade 1, $500,000 Test, the Grade 1, $500,000 Foxwoods
King's Bishop and climaxes with the 144th running of the Grade 1, $1
George "Rusty" Arnold had little trouble forgiving Centre Court, the
3-1 second choice on the morning line, for her fourth-place finish June 8
over yielding ground in the Grade 1 Foxwoods Just a Game at Belmont
Park. She found herself trapped between and behind horses on the far
turn and didn't get clear until too late.
in the Grade 1 Diana, at 1 1/8 miles, he could find no excuse for
Centre Court's dull performance, in which she tracked a moderate pace by
upset winner Laughing and faded in the drive to fifth.
could throw it out," Arnold said of the Foxwoods Just a Game effort,
"but I couldn't throw out the last one. It would be easy to sit here and
throw it out, but I can't because it's two races in a row that weren't
perfect. I think she's had a great month here. Everything's gone the
right way with her, and she needs to get back on track."
Arnold has enlisted Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez to ride.
of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey will run 5-2 morning-line favorite
Hungry Island in the Ketel One Ballston Spa after an extensive
freshening at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland following the
Just a Game.
Derby winner Orb, who will run in the Travers on Saturday, has been
getting tremendous attention for his preparation at Fair Hill, but
McGaughey has sent many of his runners down there as well.
a 5-year-old, won the Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid two years
ago at the Spa and last year finished second in the Ballston Spa when
Zagora broke the inner turf course record in 1:39.07. Zagora went on to
win the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
think if she runs her race, she's probably better than the fillies that
are in there," McGaughey said. "She's one I needed to get away from the
races for a while. When I saw those fields and therapy units and the
Tapeta track [at Fair Hill], I decided to do that.
about the toughest filly I've ever had to train. She pulls, she's
strong to gallop. She's not in her races, just in the morning when she
gallops. If she hadn't been that way, and been settled in her everyday
training, there's no telling how good she could have been. She didn't
seem to be enjoying what she was doing. I was very close to pulling the
plug on her for good. Then I came up with this idea and sent her down
there to see how that would work."
7-2, enters the race undefeated in two starts this year, including the
upset win in the Diana, the first Grade 1 victory for the 5-year-old
Dansili mare. She went gate-to-wire that day through moderate fractions
for trainer Alan Goldberg, but the pace could be more demanding in the
Ketel One Ballston Spa with more speed runners signed on.
is Pianist, 5-1 for trainer Chad Brown, who will make her first
appearance in a Grade 1 race after a front-running score in the Grade 3
Gallorette Handicap on Preakness Day at Pimlico, and then a third-place
finish in the Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes at Parx Racing.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was aboard for both of those races and retains the mount.
been pointing toward this race for a while on the calendar," Brown
said. "I thought it fit her. She likes some firm ground; she has some
speed. It's a tough race, but let's give her a shot with these fillies
and see if she belongs with them."
Smith is in town to ride Palace Malice in the Travers, he did make the
trip from California to Parx just to ride Pianist in the Penny on July
Brown said he will have no instructions for the race and doesn't believe his filly has to be making the pace to win.
guy like Mike Smith, I'm going to have a hard time telling him what to
do," Brown said. "He's ridden her well both times. He obviously is so
experienced and won so many top races, there's only so much I can tell
him that he isn't going to already know or is better advice than what he
knows. He'll figure it out."
Michael Matz will have an uncoupled entry in Somali Lemonade, 6-1,
winner of the Penny, and Hard Not to Like, 20-1, who was second in the
Gallorette and sixth last time out in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly at
Ida, 8-1, ships in from Churchill Downs for trainer Steve Margolis. She
finished second, beaten just a half-length in the Penny after winning
the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap on June 8 at Churchill Downs.
Completing the field is Embarr, 30-1, fourth in the $100,000 De La Rose on August 3 at the Spa.
Skyfall was entered Main Track Only.