SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Michael Lund Petersen’s Gamine, the Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter of 2020, will get another chance to flash her championship form over a track she dominated last summer when she heads a field of seven in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina at Saratoga Race Course.
The 43rd running of the seven-furlong Ballerina for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up is one of seven graded-stakes, six of them Grade 1, worth $4.6 million in purses on a blockbuster program highlighted by the 152nd renewal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers. It is also a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint November 6 at Del Mar.
Gamine, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, was a runaway winner of last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint, two starts after a front-running seven-length romp in the Grade 1 Longines Test at Saratoga, her only previous local appearance.
Longines Test Replay
“She’s filled out and she looks good, and she’s been working well, so we wouldn’t send her unless we thought she was doing really well,” Baffert said. “We’re excited about it. She always runs well when she goes back East. She likes the Eastern tracks.”
Gamine, a 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, showed that not only in the seven-furlong Test but also the one-mile Longines Acorn last June at Belmont Park, her first race outside of California, which she won by 18 ¾ lengths in 1:32.55, shaving more than a second off the previous stakes record of 1:34.05.
“She’s just a brilliant filly. It’s fun watching her run. The owner loves watching her run. We’re looking forward to it, but you still need to break well, and you still need racing luck. Everything’s got to go right,” Baffert said.
Gamine has won each of her three starts this year, starting with the Grade 3 Las Flores April 4 at Santa Anita, contested at six furlongs, and adding her fourth career Grade 1 triumph in the seven-furlong Derby City Distaff May 1 at Churchill Downs. She rolled by 10 lengths in the Grade 2 Great Lady M July 5 at Los Alamitos under regular rider and Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
“That’s Gamine. That’s her. He was trying to slow her down,” Baffert said. “When she runs, she always runs with her head cocked in the stretch. It’s weird. She never does that in the mornings, and I asked Johnny why she does that. He said maybe because she’s going so fast. Eventually I’d like to stretch her out. I still think I can stretch her out. I think if we could slow her down a little bit she’d stretch out. When I did stretch her out the two times there, it was the wrong time to try her long. But I think as they get older, they can do it.”
Velazquez returns to ride for the eighth straight race from post position 1. Baffert previously won the Ballerina with Marley’s Freedom in 2018.
“She’s just brilliant, just a brilliant filly,” Baffert said. “She’s fun to watch and people like watching her run. Fans love those kinds of horses, and they count on them.”
Also in from the West Coast is Bo Hirsch’s 5-year-old homebred mare Ce Ce, who also shipped cross-country for her last start, the Grade 2 Princess Rooney July 3 at Gulfstream Park, beating runner-up and fellow Ballerina entrant Estilo Talentoso by 3 ¼ lengths, with Victor Espinoza up, for her third career graded-stakes victory and first at seven furlongs.
“I thought the racetrack would be to her liking down there. Victor gave her a great ride, and we got a wonderful setup,” trainer Michael McCarthy said. “She came out of her race in Florida in good order and has trained forwardly. This is a race we’ve had on her calendar for a while.”
Ce Ce captured back-to-back Grade 1 stakes last spring in the Beholder Mile at Santa Anita and 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. She stayed at that distance and was third in the Grade 2 Santa Maria and Grade 1 Clement Hirsch before cutting back for the Derby City Distaff, where she ran fourth. Ce Ce wrapped up 2020 finishing fifth behind Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
This year, Ce Ce opened her campaign with an optional claiming win sprinting seven furlongs April 17 and was fourth after bobbling at the break in the Grade 2 Santa Maria behind As Time Goes By, who is being pointed to Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign at Saratoga.
“She’s always been good. She’s caught a couple of racetracks that weren’t to her liking, but she’s been very good this year,” McCarthy said. “She’s wonderful. She is just a treat to train. She enjoys her job and is very classy around the barn. We’re very lucky to have one like her. It’s a big thrill.”
Hall of Famer Espinoza will climb back aboard from outermost post position 7.
Godolphin homebred Lake Avenue is chasing her second career graded-stakes victory and first in a Grade 1 after running second by a neck in each of her last two starts – the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses June 4 at Belmont Park and Grade 2 Honorable Miss July 28 at Saratoga.
Winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle to cap her juvenile campaign in December 2019, Lake Avenue had successive wins to open 2021, taking an optional claimer February 3 at Gulfstream and the one-mile Heavenly Prize March 6 at Aqueduct.
“She had a good trip the last couple of times. She did get beat both times, but not by much,” Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. “Hopefully, she’ll put in that same type of effort again this weekend. We’re going into a very tough spot, but we want to give her an opportunity in another Grade 1. None of these Grade 1 races on Saturday are easy. They’re all tough.”
Junior Alvarado gets the assignment on Lake Avenue from post position 2. Mott won the Ballerina with Dream Supreme in 2000.
Medallion Racing, Barry Fowler, Parkland Thoroughbreds, Little Red Feather Racing and BlackRidge Stables’ Estilo Talentoso made her graded-stakes debut in February, running second behind 47-1 long shot Hibiscus Punch in the Grade 3 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park. From there she dead heated for second in the Grade 1 Madison and was third, beaten 2 ½ lengths by Gamine, in the Derby City Distaff before beating Lake Avenue in the Bed o’ Roses prior to her Princess Rooney run. Jose Ortiz rides from post position 6.
Lloyd Madison Farms IV homebred Sconsin won the Grade 3 Winning Colors sprinting six furlongs May 22 and most recently was second as the favorite to subsequent Honorable Miss winner Bell’s the One in the 6 ½-furlong Roxelana June 12, both races coming at Churchill. Trained by Greg Foley, she will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post position 5.
Completing the field are Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc. and Stretch Run Ventures’ Casual [post 3, Ricardo Santana, Jr.], third last out in the seven-furlong Shine Again August 4 at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen; and Chad Summers and J Stables’ Truth Hurts [post 4, Joel Rosario], fourth in the Honorable Miss.
The Ballerina is slated as Race 7 on the 13-race card. First post is 11:35 a.m. Eastern. For the third consecutive year, FOX will air the Runhappy Travers as the centerpiece of a 90-minute telecast beginning at 5 p.m. The networks of FOX and FOX Sports will air 7.5 total hours of live racing and analysis on Runhappy Travers Day, with coverage scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. on FS1. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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NYRA/Saratoga Press Release
Photo: With John Velazquez in the irons Gamine romps to a win in the Longines Test at Saratoga August 8, 2020. (Joe Labozzetta)