Sunday afternoon, O’Neill will try to trace similar steps when he sends out J. Paul Reddam’s Mistical Plan in the 30th running of the $250,000 Ballerina for fillies and mares. A strong field of eight is entered for the seven-furlong race and, because it is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge, the winner will automatically qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on Friday, October 24.
Mistical Plan is coming off the best race of her career in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder, where she pressed favorite Dream Rush from the outside and drew away in the stretch for a 5¾-length victory.
“That was a phenomenal race,” O’Neill said. “She had been training well up to the Princess Rooney. While she has proven to be versatile by running long and short, I think she has shown her brilliance in sprinting.”
The Princess Rooney was Mistical Plan’s first win in four starts since coming off a near-year layoff. As a three-year-old in 2007, Mistical Plan won the Grade 2 Fair Ground Oaks at a mile and a sixteenth and the Sunshine Million Oaks at six furlongs.
After Mistical Plan’s back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the Grade 1 Ashland and the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, O’Neill believed the Game Plan filly needed a break from racing.
“There was nothing seriously wrong with her; she wasn’t injured,” he said. “She was a tired horse and she needed time to recover. She had a good campaign and got tired from it.”
Jockey Cornelio Velasquez, who was aboard for her third-place finish in Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on June 14, will ride Mistical Plan in the Ballerina.
“The game plan is to have her start running and get her in a good position,” O’Neill said. “She doesn’t necessarily need the lead.”
Another California-based four-year-old filly running in the Ballerina is Tom Grether Farm’s lightly-raced Intangaroo, who has proven herself on both dirt and synthetic surfaces with wins in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff Stakes at Churchill Downs and Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita, both at seven furlongs.
“I am glad she can handle both surfaces,” trainer Gary Sherlock said. “When she won the Humana Distaff, it made our plans easier to find races leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. Also, if she wins the Ballerina, she gets another Grade 1 win that should put her ahead in the division.”
Intangaroo showed promise for Sherlock in first career race at Hollywood Park she rallied from eighth at the half-mile point to win by a length.
After a disappointing summer at Del Mar, Intangaroo won an allowance race and then finished third in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap.
“She didn’t like the Del Mar surface,” Sherlock said. “I also had a problem with jockeys riding her because she would fool them by putting herself in the race early and she needed to be taken back.”
Alonso Quinonez, who was an apprentice rider last year, has been no worse than third in six mounts aboard Intangaroo, with the exception of her last race – the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park where she was fourth to the wire-to-wire winner Dearest Trickski.
“She didn’t run a bad race; she had no chance in that race,” Sherlock he said. “There was a speed bias that day and there was no speed to go with Dearest Trickski. I am hoping she gets a good pace to run at in the Ballerina.”
Owner/trainer Steve Klesaris brings Miraculous Miss back for the Ballerina.
Miraculous Miss, winless in 2007 and 2007, has been competitive against the best female – and male – sprinters.
After nearly pulling off a 43-1 upset in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Miraculous Miss rallied for a third-place finish, beaten just less than four lengths, to Benny the Bull in the Grade 1 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.
“She is honest and has run against the best of them; each time, she always comes with her ‘A’ game,” Klesaris said of the five-year-old mare, who won the Grade 2 Forward Gal, the Grade 2 Comely and the Grade 3 Endine Handicap. “It just seems there is always someone who is better that day. Still, she’s a fun horse to be around.”
Sugar Swirl, a winner of five of her last six starts, is entered for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. Her only loss in five starts this year was to Intangaroo.
The field for Sunday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Ballerina Stakes
PP HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY WEIGHT
1 Intangaroo Gary Sherlock Alonso Quinozez 122
2 Sugar Swirl Robert Frankel Javier Castellano 119
3 Leah’s Secret Todd Pletcher John Velazquez 117
4 Mistical Plan Doug O’Neill Cornelio Velasquez 122
5 Baroness Thatcher Bill Mott Kent Desormeaux 117
6 Jibboom Robert Frankel Edgar Prado 117
7 Miraculous Miss Steve Klesaris Ramon Dominguez 115
8 Bayou Lassie Dale Romans Julien Leparoux 117