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Ribaudo Confident in Grand Couturier


Trainer Robert Ribaudo said Monday morning that he plans to accept Grand Couturier’s invitation to Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational at 1 ½ miles over the Saratoga turf course.


The 7-year-old veteran, owned by Marc Keller, will try for his third Sword Dancer victory on Saturday, having won the race in 2007 and 2008.


“So far, he’s going to the Sword Dancer,” Ribaudo said. “He seems to be doing well up here, as he usually does. We still have confidence in him. There’s no reason to think that he shouldn’t be here.”


Grand Couturier has not won since the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Belmont Park last September. He finished seventh in his two most recent starts, the Grade 1 Man o’War and Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap.


“The Man o’ War seemed like a good spot for him, even though it was a tough race,” Ribaudo said. “It was paceless. He got a new rider for the first time. He was closer than normal, which seemed to be the right thing to do in a slow-paced race, but it’s not his style and you can’t take him out of his game.”


Ribaudo added that Qualia, also owned by Keller, is being pointed toward the Grade 1, $250,000 Ballerina for fillies and mares going seven furlongs, as part of the Travers Day undercard, on August 28.


The 4-year-old filly, who finished second in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses Handicap at Belmont on July 5, breezed four furlongs over the main track in 48.34 on Sunday morning.


“That’s what we were planning after the Bed o’ Roses,” Ribaudo said. “She stepped up in the Bed o’ Roses. She ran great. If she improves slightly at the right time, she’s there. If I had run her yesterday [in the Honorable Miss] and then the Ballerina, it would have been too much. I would like a fresh horse in the Ballerina.”


Since her racing career started on October 18, 2009, Qualia is 4-for-6 with a pair of narrow defeats accounting for her other starts. For Ribaudo, the Ballerina will determine if Qualia is capable of running against the best female sprinters at the Breeders’ Cup in November.


“If she steps up another notch, we would like to think we have a chance to going to the Breeders’ Cup,” Ribaudo said. “If she passes that test, with one or two more races, she’ll be fresh for the Breeders’ Cup. If we’re wrong, we’ll set our sights a little lower. If we’re right, we haven’t made any mistakes.”


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