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Sharp Sassy Image Headlines Ballerina

Sassy Image captures the 2009 Golden Rod Stakes

With two Grade 1 wins under her belt so far this year and a pair of sharp works at Saratoga Race Course, Sassy Image looks like the horse to beat in Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Ballerina.

 

The seven-furlong Ballerina – the 10th of 13 races on the Travers card – is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, with the winning horse earning a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on November 4 at Churchill Downs.

 

Sassy Image streaks into the Ballerina off three consecutive graded stakes scores, having taken the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, Churchill’s Grade 3 Winning Colors three weeks later and the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder Race Course on July 9. Shipped up to Saratoga after the Princess Rooney, she has fired two bullet works over the main track, most recently covering five furlongs in 58.66 on August 20.

 

“She’s training phenomenal,” said Dale Romans, who trains the 4-year-old daughter of Broken Vow for his brother, Jerry Romans. “She had a super breeze the other day and when she works like that, she usually runs well. I couldn’t be happier with her.”

 

Winner of Churchill’s Grade 3, one-mile Pocahontas and Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod as a juvenile, Sassy Image raced only twice as a 3-year-old, picking up an additional stakes victory in the Sweet Chant at Gulfstream Park . Following a fifth-place showing in the Grade 2 Davona Dale in February 2010, she went to the sidelines for nearly a year, returning in January to finish second in a one-mile optional claimer at Gulfstream.

 

“Her 3-year-old year was lost to some aches and pains,” said Romans. “Nothing major, but it ended up taking a lot more time than we expected, and we did a minor throat surgery early this year, and that seemed to make all the difference in the world. This year she’s just gotten really good. I think she’s a better middle-distance horse, even a little further than seven-eighths probably. I haven’t completely ruled out stretching her back out some day.”

 

Sassy Image, tabbed as the 5-2 morning-line second-choice, drew the outside in the seven-horse Ballerina field and will carry 122 pounds including Robby Albarado.

 

Among the horses standing between Sassy Image and her third Grade 1 of 2011 is Hilda’s Passion. A front-running winner of three graded stakes herself in 2011, Hilda’s Passion exits an uncharacteristically dull effort in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses Handicap at Belmont Park on July 3, in which she pressed the pace and then finished sixth behind Tamarind Hall.

 

“There’s no real explanation for her last start,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “We thought that the surface was a little peculiar that day. She never really fired, never got going, very unlike her normal performances. So we decided to freshen her up a touch and point for the Ballerina, and she has trained exceptionally well.”

 

Owned by Starlight Partners and Charles Glasscock, Hilda’s Passion was a force to be reckoned with this past winter at Gulfstream, missing by a neck in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl and going on to a pair of daylight victories in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie and Grade 2 Inside Information. Second to Sassy Image in the Humana Distaff, she came back a month later to take the Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap at Belmont Park by 5 ¼ lengths.

 

Installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite, Hilda’s Passion will have the services of Javier Castellano from post position 3. Pletcher also will saddle Mill House’s Hour Glass, 12-1 on the morning line, who will be ridden by John Velazquez from the rail.

 

Tar Heel Mom, winter rival of Hilda’s Passion, exits a 5 ¾-length victory in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss three weeks ago at Saratoga . Winner of the Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream, she found herself second-best to Hilda’s Passion in the Hurricane Bertie and Inside Information. The consistent 6-year-old daughter of Flatter seeks her first Grade 1 victory in the Ballerina. The last time she competed at the Grade 1 level she bled when finishing fifth in the 2009 edition of the Ballerina.

 

Alex Solis has the call aboard Tar Heel Mom and the pair will leave from post position 6 as the 7-2 morning-line third choice.

 

Tamarind Hall will tango again with the big girls in the Ballerina fresh off a career-best performance in the Bed o’ Roses, in which she stalked the pace and drew clear to a 5 ¼-length upset.

 

“I knew she would need time after the Bed o’ Roses,” said trainer Jeremiah Englehart. “She had three tough races right in a row and she was a little tired; she backed off her grain and got a little light. Her first breeze back [on July 20 at Finger Lakes ] was a little quiet, but every work from there has been stronger and stronger. She’s telling me she’s ready for a race.”

 

A 4-year-old daughter of Graeme Hall, Tamarind Hall broke her maiden for a $25,000 claiming tag at Tampa Bay Downs in March 2010 and competed exclusively in the claiming ranks for most of her sophomore season. Her first start for Englehart and owner Mark Vondrasek of Eklektikos Stable was an optional claimer at Finger Lakes on November 26, which she won by six lengths. The Bed o’ Roses was her first start in stakes company and followed a 7 ¾-length allowance triumph at Finger Lakes on June 11.

 

“We’ll definitely find out how good she is here,” said Englehart. “You probably have the two or three top horses for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in here and if my filly runs her race and could compete with them, I’d be very happy.”

 

David Cohen will ride Tamarind Hall, 6-1, from post 2.

 

Completing the Ballerina field are Devil by Design, winner of the seven-furlong Chicago Handicap over the Polytrack at Arlington Park on July 3, and Bronx City Girl, exiting a head loss in Monmouth Park ’s Regret Stakes.

 

The field for the Grade 1, $250,000 Ballerina:

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1

Hour Glass (KY)

J R Velazquez

117

T A Pletcher

12-1

2

Tamarind Hall (FL)

D Cohen

117

J C Englehart

6-1

3

Hilda's Passion (KY)

J Castellano

122

T A Pletcher

2-1

4

Bronx City Girl (KY)

J R Leparoux

115

M D Wolfson

15-1

5

Devil by Design (KY)

C S Nakatani

117

W I Mott

8-1

6

Tar Heel Mom (KY)

A O Solis

119

S M Hough

7-2

7

Sassy Image (KY)

R Albarado

122

D L Romans

5-2

 

 

 

 

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