SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – More than a year after using Saratoga Race Course as a springboard to the female sprint championship, Michael Lund Petersen’s multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire filly Gamine returned to further strengthen her hold on the division with a command performance in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina.
A “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint November 6 at Del Mar, the 43rd running of the Ballerina for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up was the second of seven-graded stakes and first of six Grade 1 events worth a total of $4.6 million in purses on a blockbuster program highlighted by the 152nd renewal of the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Gamine completed seven furlongs over a fast main track in 1:21.61, the fastest Ballerina since Lady Tak ran 1:21.09 in 2004. Gamine matched Lady Tak’s stakes record of 1:20.83 winning last summer’s Grade 1 Longines Test, and is now one of only seven horses to sweep both of Saratoga’s Grade 1 female sprints.
Other horses to complete the double include Love Sign [1980 Test, 1981 Ballerina], Lass Trump (1983, 1984), Lady Tak [2003, 2004] and Turbulent Descent [2011, 2012]. Hall of Famer Lady’s Secret  and Dream Supreme  are the only ones to win both races the same year.
Sent off as the 1-5 favorite against six rivals, Gamine extended her win streak to four this year and five overall with her fifth career Grade 1 triumph, returning $2.70 for $2 win bet.
Breaking from the rail under her regular rider, Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Gamine quickly established her typical front-running position while Estilo Talentoso attempted to keep pace, staying within a half-length through a quarter-mile in 23.20 seconds and a half in 45.68. Lake Avenue tracked in third with Gamine’s fellow California invader Ce Ce sitting fourth.
“We were down in the one hole, so you have to break and go from there. She handled the gate well, broke well and Johnny put her in the race,” Baffert assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “The 23 felt pretty comfortable, 45 was pretty comfortable. [They were gaining on her] slightly, but once Johnny got her to switch leads, I wasn’t really concerned. They were moving but we were still running.”
Gamine extended her lead to two lengths approaching the stretch as Lake Avenue slipped through an opening on the inside to take second with Ce Ce swinging out wide for a clear run. Gamine powered through the lane, going six furlongs in 1:09.20 with Lake Avenue determinedly giving chase along the rail, before coming home 1 ¾ lengths in front. Lake Avenue was a clear second over Ce Ce, who got up late to edge Sconsin by a neck.
It was the second Ballerina victory for Baffert following Marley’s Freedom in 2018 and fifth for Velazquez, having previously won with Haveyougoneaway , Unbridled Forever , Turbulent Descent and Happy Ticket .
“She just kind of waited and then by the quarter pole, I asked her for what she needed to do, and she got it done,” Velazquez said. “I didn’t think there was much speed in the race. She’s a nice horse to relax. If they went fast, she was going to go fast. If they went slow, she was going to go slow, so that’s what I like about her. When she’s in the lead, she’s in control of herself.”
Gamine carried topweight of 126 pounds in the Ballerina, giving from three to 12 pounds to her rivals.
“I’m a very happy man,” Petersen said. “I was very nervous today, only because she was giving so much weight away, so you just never know. I was thrilled to see she got the start we wanted. From there, I was just hoping she would hold on.”
Gamine has won nine of 10 career starts, her lone loss coming when third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, contested at 1 1/8 miles, last September at Churchill Downs. The $275,000 winner’s share of the Ballerina purse pushed her lifetime bankroll to $1,681,500 for the 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, who fetched $800,000 as a 2-year-old in training in 2019.
“She is one amazing horse. They don’t come around like her very often, and I treat her like that, too,” Petersen said. “You never know when it will be the last time you’re going to see them like this so you just enjoy every race like it’s going to be the last win we get. She is very special.”
Other Grade 1 wins for Gamine have come in the one-mile Acorn and seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in 2020 and May 1 Derby City Distaff. Three of her Grade 1 wins have come at either Belmont Park or Saratoga.
“She sure does enjoy New York,” Barnes said. “She’s been good and solid. The Gamine machine – that’s her.”
First run in 1979, the Ballerina is named for Howell E. Jackson’s filly that won the inaugural 1954 Maskette Handicap, now contested at Aqueduct as the Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap.
Sunday will feature a 10-race card at Saratoga headlined by the $120,000 Better Talk Now for 3-year-olds that have never won a stake at a mile or more, scheduled for eight furlongs over the inner turf course in Race 9 at 5:39 p.m. Eastern. First post is 1:05 p.m.
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Gamine, (NYRA Photo)