“Win & You’re In” is the case for the Grade I Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga this Saturday. This race has major implications on how the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint field will start shaping up. While Spelling Again has already punched her ticket with a win in the Princess Rooney at Gulfstream back in July, this race features many horses that are on the fringe of the point standings. Last year’s winner Wavell Avenue needs to win or earn some points and is rounding back into form, but loses the services of Joel Rosario to the lone 3-year-old in the field, Carina Mia.
So, who will show some “Allegro” and win the Ballerina?
Birdatthewire appears to be over her head against this field and has had a history of being slow at the start. I don’t expect her to be much of a factor here and, even if she repeated her effort in the Princess Rooney, I doubt she will even finish in the front half of this talented field.
By The Moon ran a solid race in the Bed of Roses, but appears a little short on class in this race. She loses Jose Ortiz to Michelle Nevin’s other entry here, Paulassilverlining. I expect to see a slight regression in form as she comes back after running her best race against older horses last out.
Paulassilverlining is on the fringe in terms of BC points right now. A good showing here will likely propel her into consideration for a trip to Santa Anita in November. The pace should be to her liking and I expect the stronger Nevin entry to be near the lead during the early going. The extra furlong allows her to avenge that loss by a nose last out to the longshot Haveyougoneaway.
Sheer Drama is also on the fringe in regard to points and showed a lot of guts in the Madison at Keeneland back in April. It is interesting that trainer David Fawkes elected to run her in a sprint and not the Personal Ensign, which she won last year. Her last effort at Belmont Park in the Ogden Phipps was less than encouraging.
Sarah Sis ran a huge race two back in the Chicago Handicap, but she hasn’t shown much otherwise. She was the pacesetter in this race last year and succumbed to pressure by the stretch. I would expect to see her take the lead early again here… with the same end result.
Linda Linda ran flat against a fast pace last out in the Shine Again. While I expect a softer pace here, she needs to prove that she has the class before I would back her. A Grade I win in Chile is not the same as here in the US, yet this horse is the biggest question mark of the race and perhaps a slower pace will help her cause.
Spelling Again has already qualified for the championship at Santa Anita after a career-best performance to take the Princess Rooney at Gulfstream last month. Given the projected pace, I expect her to be on or close to the lead here. While I don’t expect her to win, I do expect her to figure in the exotics.
Last year’s champion Wavell Avenue seems to be rounding back into form. I’m expecting a slower pace here than she faced in the Shine Again, but the same kind of trip here. I expect her to sit between three to five lengths off of a weak early pace and make a big late move.
Carina Mia is the lone 3-year-old in this field and this will be her first start against older horses. Forget her last race in which she went two turns as the runner-up to sophomore phenom Songbird. She has been solid around one turn. She also draws Wavell Avenue’s regular rider Joel Rosario and, with any sort of improvement, she could be a contender here.
Haveyougoneaway ran the race of her life in the Honorable Miss to beat Paulassilverlining by a neck. She is likely to bounce here and, while she will make up some ground by the stretch, I think she will be flat late.
To summarize the most likely pace scenario here, I expect to see Sarah Sis try for the early lead with Spelling Again right with her, yet neither one will last on or near the lead. Paulassilverlining and Carina Mia will both be right off the pace early and both will be a factor late. Sheer Drama will settle in for a stalking trip, but may only factor in your exotics. Linda Linda will start off close to Sheer Drama, but I don’t expect that she will show much as the race progresses. Wavell Avenue will be five or more lengths back early and will be making steady progress on the backstretch and will be a big factor late. Haveyougoneaway will also be looking to stalk the pace and while she does make up ground by the stretch, it won’t be enough. By The Moon will also be toward the rear of the field early and will make steady progress to figure in your exotics. Birdatthewire will be towards the back of the field and is not expected to make any impact on the pace or outcome here.
My Win Contenders: 8, 3, 9
My Exotic Contenders: 2, 7
My Upset Horse: 6