Thursday, August 23, 2012
TURF TALENT ABOUNDS IN GRADE 2 BALLSTON SPA PRESENTED BY JOSE CUERVO
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – A deep field of eight fillies and mares, three Grade 1 winners among them, will square off Saturday afternoon at Saratoga Race Course for the 24th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa presented by Jose Cuervo at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Zagora, who finished third in an attempt to defend her title in the Grade 1 Diana on July 28, will attempt to regain the winning thread in the Ballston Spa. A 5-year-old French-bred daughter of Green Tune, Zagora is 3-0-1 in five starts this year, including victories in the Grade 3 Endeavour and Grade 3 Hillsborough, both at Tampa Bay Downs, as well the Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap at Pimlico Race Course on May 19, the mare’s most recent start before the Diana.
Dominguez has the return call aboard Zagora, favored at 5-2 on the morning line, and the pair will leave from post position 2.
Tapitsfly, gate-to-wire winner of the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game on June 9 at Belmont Park, exits a front-running fourth-place effort in the Diana, which was contested over turf rated “good.”
“Firmer ground is definitely what she wants,” said trainer Dale Romans. “She came out of the Diana really well. I wasn’t thinking about running her back that quick, but she’s just doing so well up here. There’s plenty of speed in there with her and Summer Soiree, so we’ll see what happens.”
The 5-year-old daughter of Tapit carries the colors of Frank L. Jones, Jr. and will leave from post position 6 under Javier Castellano at 7-2 on the morning line.
Team Valor International’s Summer Soiree completes the Grade 1-winning trio in the Ballston Spa as she returns from a nine-month layoff. A daughter of War Front, Summer Soiree is 2-1-0 in four starts on turf, including a win in Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks last August. Her connections switched her to grass after a 10th-place finish in the 2011 Kentucky Oaks.
Working steadily at Fair Hill Training Center since the end of June, the 4-year-old filly was tabbed at 9-2 on the morning line and will leave from post position 5 with Julien Leparoux.
Emory Hamilton’s homebred Hungry Island looks to rebound from a dull, fifth-place effort in the Diana. Winner of the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile over Tapitsfly at Churchill Downs on May 5, the late-running daughter of More Than Ready was third behind that rival in the Longines Just a Game a month later.
“I was little disappointed in her race in the Diana,” said the filly’s Hall of Fame trainer, Shug McGaughey. “[Jockey John Velazquez] said when he asked her, she was just even. Who knows? That’s really the first time she’s ever done something like that, but she has trained good since and hopefully we can get her back on the right track.”
Recent Hall of Fame inductee Velazquez will once again ride Hungry Island, 3-1 on the morning line, from post 4.
Completing the field are Heavenly Landing and Ruthenia, second and fourth, respectively, in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth Park last time out; Thundering Emilia, who exits a fourth in the Red Carpet stakes at Penn National; and Mykindofladyfriend, winner of a $30,000 turf claiming event at Delaware Park on July 25. Acting Happy was entered for the main track only.
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