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Breeders' Cup 2017

Miss Keller Lukewarm Choice in Ballston Spa


Four weeks after finishing less than a length apart in the Grade 1 Diana, Dynaslew, Maram and Phola hook up again as they take on Miss Keller in Saturday’s 22nd running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Ballston Spa Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.


The Ballston Spa is the first of five graded stakes on the Travers Day card, with an approximate post time of 3:30 p.m.


The Roger Attfield-trained Miss Keller, no worse than third in four starts this year, comes into the 1 1/16th mile Ballston Spa off a hard-charging victory in the De La Rose at the Spa on August 4. Having opened her 4-year-old campaign with an allowance win at Keeneland, the Montjeu filly next was third behind Phola in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile and then second in the Grade 2 Nassau on June 5 at Woodbine.


With Javier Castellano aboard, Miss Keller, fourth in last year’s Grade 2 Lake Placid, leaves from the rail as the 7-2 morning-line favorite.


Trained by Seth Benzel for Live Oak Plantation, Dynaslew went off an 18-1 long shot in the Diana, leading from the gate into deep stretch before being caught in the shadow of the wire, beaten only a neck by winner Proviso.


“She came out of the race in super shape,” Benzel said. “Going in, there were a lot of people who didn’t really think she fit with those kinds of mares, but we had a lot of confidence in her. I was just happy for her that she proved she belonged, and we’re looking forward to her showing up again in the Ballston Spa.”


Bred in Florida by Live Oak Stud, the 4-year-old daughter of Dynaformer was second, beaten a length in the Grade 3 All Along at Colonial Downs, after opening the year with back-to-back wins that included the Grade 3 Beaugay in May at Belmont Park.


“We definitely looked at this race as an option coming out of the Diana,” Benzel said. “The distance, I think, is perfect for her. It’s a Grade 2, and that would be a great thing to add to her resume. All systems are go. She looks great, and she’s ready to tackle these horses.”


At 8-1 on the morning line, Dynaslew will be ridden by Eibar Coa from post position 7.


The Ballston Spa will be the fourth start of the year for Maram, owned by Karen Woods and Saud bin Khaled and trained by Chad Brown. In the Diana, she stalked Dynaslew all the way around and wound up a neck behind in fifth, beaten only a half-length for the win.


“For a couple of days there, she looked tired, and then she was back on her toes,” Brown said. “I thought it was a real good effort. She’s doing really well.”

A 4-year-old daughter of Sahm, Maram is 2-for-3 lifetime at Saratoga, winning her career debut here in 2008 at the Ballston Spa distance and coming back to take the one-mile John Hettinger Stakes last summer. She was second by a nose in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap in May and rallied to win the Miss Liberty Stakes by a head in July, both at Monmouth Park.


“She likes the course here,” Brown said. “It’s definitely going to be a class relief from the Diana, so that’s good. I’ve been very happy with all of her races this year. She tried hard all three times, and she ran well.”


Maram will be ridden by Jose Lezcano from post position 9, and was listed at 5-1 on the morning line.


Trainer Todd Pletcher is hoping to see some quicker fractions in the Ballston Spa for late-running Phola, the only multiple graded-stakes winner in the field.


In the Diana, the 4-year-old Johannesburg filly got caught behind a moderate pace and was unable to catch the frontrunners, though wound up beaten only 1 ¼ lengths.


“She put in her closing kick; unfortunately, it was a paceless race,” Pletcher said.


Phola, a winner of three of five starts in 2010, including the Grade 3 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs and the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs, was made the second choice at 4-1 with Ramon Dominguez aboard.


“She’s had a very productive year,” Pletcher said of Phola, who drew post position 3. “It’s kind of been a matter of identifying her running style, getting her back off the pace and making one run. It’s seemed to make a difference.”


Canadian-based Mekong Melody takes a two-race win streak into the Ballston Spa, coming off a victory in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly at Woodbine on July 18. With John Velazquez up, she will leave from the outside at odds of 6-1.


Making her 2010 debut in the Ballston Spa is Silver Reunion, trained by H. Graham Motion for owner Brereton C. Jones. The 4-year-old Harlan’s Holiday filly won three times from six starts in 2009, including a gate-to-wire upset at odds of 14-1 in the Riskaverse Stakes at Saratoga. At 10-1 on the morning line, she drew post position 4 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons.


Rounding out the field are Strike the Bell, second to Maram in the Miss Liberty on July 4; Danzon, who won consecutive starts, including the Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs; Scolara, second to Dynaslew in the Beaugay, and Cherokee Queen, who is reunited with jockey Julien Leparoux two starts after they teamed up to win the $200,000 Dr. J Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park.

The field for the Grade 2 Ballston Spa:








Miss Keller (IRE)

J Castellano


R L Attfield



Danzon (KY)

A O Solis


J E Baker



Phola (KY)

R A Dominguez


T A Pletcher



Silver Reunion (KY)

R Maragh


H G Motion



Strike the Bell (KY)

E S Prado


D G Donk



Scolara (FL)

K J Desormeaux


W I Mott



Dynaslew (FL)

E Coa


S Benzel



Cherokee Queen (KY)

J R Leparoux


M D Wolfson



Maram (KY)

J Lezcano


C C Brown



Mekong Melody (IRE)

J R Velazquez


R L Attfield





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