A “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, the seven-furlong Ballerina drew a field of seven for its 34th running, including multiple Grade 1 winner It’s Tricky, who is the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Ballerina but is more likely to run in Sunday’s Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign Invitational.
One year ago, Turbulent Descent earned the third Grade 1 victory of her young career when she barreled four-wide to take the seven-furlong Test at the Spa in electrifying fashion. Subsequently unplaced in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and the Grade 1 La Brea in December at Santa Anita, the bay daughter of Congrats was off until June 17, when she rolled to a 1 ¼-length win in the Desert Stormer Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park, earning a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure in the process.
Purchased privately by Coolmore Stud, Turbulent Descent then was sent to trainer Todd Pletcher, who has spent the past month readying the 4-year-old filly for the Ballerina, the winner of which will earn an automatic berth in the Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on November 2.
“She’s the Test winner and obviously likes the track, so at this distance and on this surface, the Ballerina has been the plan since she’s arrived,” said Pletcher of Turbulent Descent, who is listed at 9-5 on the morning line. “She’s gotten to this point in very good order. She’s very intelligent, she’s got a good disposition … basically, she’s everything she was advertised to be.”
Pletcher, who traveled to California earlier this summer to watch her train, said Turbulent Descent has acclimated to her new home extremely well.
“When I went to California to look at her, [trainer] Mike Puype was very, very kind and generous and shared all kinds of information about her,” said Pletcher, who won last year’s Ballerina with Hilda’s Passion. “While I kind of knew what to expect, it’s always nice to have some extra time to get to know her and get a feel for her early on. She’s made the transition very smooth for us.
Favored in all 11 of her starts, Turbulent Descent drew post position 6 and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
For weeks, McLaughlin has been contemplating a start in either the Ballerina or the Personal Ensign for Godolphin Stable’s It’s Tricky, who most recently took the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on May 28 at Belmont Park. With last year’s 3-year-old filly champion Royal Delta pointing toward the Personal Ensign, and looking ahead to keeping It’s Tricky and Saturday’s Grade 1 Alabama winner Questing in separate races in the fall, McLaughlin is keeping his options open as long as possible for It’s Tricky, winner of the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks last year at the Spa.
Highweight at 122 pounds, It’s Tricky was assigned post position 3 under Eddie Castro.
Nicole H will be seeking her third victory of 2012 and first since February in the Ballerina. The 5-year-old mare won the Interborough and Correction over Aqueduct Racetrack’s inner track this past winter, and, while close, has yet to find the winner’s circle in five starts since, most recently finishing a half-length behind Musical Romance in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney in July at Calder Race Course.
Saratoga’s leading rider, Ramon Dominguez, will be aboard Nicole H, who is 4-1 on the morning line from post position 5.
Competing in a Grade 1 for the first time is Island Bound, who rallied from last to miss by a neck in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap on August 3. Victorious in the Grade 3 Winning Colors at Churchill Downs in her graded stakes debut, the 5-year-old Speightstown mare has been training forwardly at Saratoga and trainer Ian Wilkes is hoping she will step up.
“We’re giving her a shot at a Grade 1 – it would be a wonderful thing for her owner, Robert Manfuso,” said Wilkes. “Maybe she’s not good enough to beat these. Maybe she is. We’ll find out. But the good thing about her is she tries.”
Julien Leparoux rides Island Bound, 10-1 on the morning line, from the rail.
The Ballerina also drew Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses winner Derwin’s Star; All Due Respect, most recently sixth in an overnight turf stakes at Belmont, and Belle of the Hall, fourth behind C C’s Pal and Island Bound in the Honorable Miss.