Race of the Week 2017

Streaking Romacaca Ready for Balston Spa

For the second time in her career, Frank Calabrese’s turf mare Romacaca is riding a five-race winning streak, and on Saturday the 5-year-old will seek to make it six when she runs in the Grade 2, $200,000 Ballston Spa at Saratoga Race Course.


The 1 1/16-mile grass race drew a field of nine fillies and mares and is one of five graded stakes events on the Saturday card, highlighted by the 142nd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Travers for 3-year-olds.


Romacaca, a daughter of Running Stag trained by Nick Canani, opened her latest winning streak in a mile optional claimer in February at Gulfstream Park and then knocked out three overnight stakes races before her most recent start, a sharp 1 ¼-length victory in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park on July 31.


In 2009, as a 3-year-old, Romacaca also won five in a row, rising out of the maiden claiming ranks to show speed, class and a powerful determination to win.


“When she was younger, she was kind of a one-dimensional filly and would go to the lead and keep on going,” Canani said of Romacaca, the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. “As she matured, she’s really learning how to run. She’ll relax now and settle. Lifetime, she’s won 12 out of 23, so she definitely knows how to win. She’s, to me, just a smarter filly. She’s figuring it out.”


Trainer Chad Brown will send out Desert Sage, fourth as the beaten favorite in her most recent start July 4 at Parx. The British import, 5-1 on the morning line, won her first two starts of the year at Gulfstream Park and then ran second in a dead heat in the Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap on Preakness Day at Pimlico.


In the $200,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Parx last out, Desert Sage was rank on the lead, whereas she normally comes from behind.


“The jock [Jose Lezcano] pulled her out of cover, and he realized it was a mistake,” Brown said. “She was a little keen. We thought there was a lot of talent at Gulfstream. We thought the filly would have a good year.”


Desert Sage has been breezing in the morning with his Grade 1 Beverly D. Handicap winner Stacelita and holding her own, Brown said.


Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will send out Juddmonte Farms’ Aviate, 4-1, who was beaten in back-to-back Grade 1 races her past two starts, the Foxwoods Just a Game at Belmont and the Diana at Saratoga.


Team Valor International will have morning-line favorite Daveron, 3-1, winner of the Dr. James Penny and Grade 3 Beaugay in May at Belmont Park, her only two starts of the year.


“She was very impressive that day,” trainer Graham Motion said of Daveron’s start in Philadelphia. “[Jockey] Eddie [Castro] has done great with her because she is headstrong. I think she’s a really nice filly. This is a race we’ve pointed toward since Philadelphia.”


Trainer Dale Romans will send out Tapitsfly, 10-1, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf two years ago and recent second-place finisher in the restricted De La Rose on the grass at Saratoga.


Completing the field are multiple graded stakes winner Mekong Melody, 8-1, fourth in the Diana; Miss Keller, 10-1, second last fall in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine and the third-place finisher last summer in the Ballston Spa; Strike the Bell, 15-1, sixth last year in the Ballston Spa; and Trix in the City, 12-1, recent winner of the De La Rose, who is 2-for-3 lifetime at Saratoga.


The field for the Grade 2 Ballston Spa:








Miss Keller (IRE)

J Castellano


R L Attfield



Romacaca (FL)

E T Baird


N Canani



Daveron (GER)

E Castro


H G Motion



Desert Sage (GB)

J Lezcano


C C Brown



Mekong Melody (IRE)

J R Velazquez


R L Attfield



Trix in the City (KY)

S Bridgmohan


R A Violette, Jr.



Aviate (GB)

J R Leparoux


W I Mott



Strike the Bell (KY)

R A Dominguez


D G Donk



Tapitsfly (KY)

R Albarado


D L Romans




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