Blue Devil Racing Stable’s homebred Come Dancing worked a bullet half-mile in 46.68 Saturday on a fast Saratoga main track in preparation for the Grade 2, $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap on September 6 at the Spa.
Trained by Carlos Martin, the 6-year-old Malibu Moon mare hit the main track, before a brief but heavy rainstorm, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons as regular pilot, Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, will be at Churchill Downs the weekend of the Honorable Miss to ride Caracaro in the Kentucky Derby.
“We got lucky. We got out there around 7 a.m. She went solo with Irad Ortiz, Jr. who is going to ride her because Javier is out of town,” said Martin. “Irad said she was moving sound and happy and, believe it or not, he thought she did that easy.
“She was just cruising. It was something beautiful to see,” added Martin. “It’s one thing to go quick and then stagger home in 24. She went 12, 12, 11 and change and then 11 and 1. She just does it gradually and so naturally.”
Come Dancing established herself as one of the top older female sprinters in the country last year by winning 4-of-6 starts, including scores in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap in April at the Big A; the Grade 2 Ruffian in May at Belmont; a first career Grade 1-win in the Ballerina in August at the Spa; and a 3 ¼-length romp in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom in September on Big Sandy.
Come Dancing has raced three times this season with her best result coming in a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Vagrancy in June at Belmont. Last out, the dark bay was an even fourth when attempting to defend her title in the Grade 1 Ballerina on August 8.
“He took her back off the pace, which I was fine with, as they were going in 21 and change, and it seemed like she was making that rally on the outside. For a second, I thought she was going to go right by them,” said Martin. “She was wide, and I didn’t mind that, but Javier said she was getting in a little bit.
“She’s a hundred percent sound and was straight as a string this morning,” added Martin. “But it looked like in mid-stretch last time she came in a little bit and tried to split horses and then Bellafina came in on her a little bit and she had to check. She found herself in the middle of those horses after being seven-wide. He then took her back outside and she just missed being third.”
Martin said he remains confident in Come Dancing’s ability to return to last fall’s stellar form.
“People may say she’s lost a step, but she was beaten three lengths in a Grade 1 and she was wide the whole way with a 92 Beyer,” said Martin regarding the Ballerina effort. “I’m not ready to throw in the towel and say she cannot come back to her best form.”
Martin said the swift mare could consider defending her title in the Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap on October 3 at Belmont or the Grade 2, $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America on October 3 at Keeneland as they chart a course for their long-term goal of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland.
“If she runs big in the Honorable Miss, we’ll have to decide if we want to go to Keeneland and get that prep a month before the Breeders’ Cup or if we want to stay home,” said Martin. “If she’s thriving, I’d think we’d want to keep her in action instead of waiting two months for the Breeders’ Cup.
“It’s something we’d have to talk about,” continued Martin. “She does run well fresh, usually. But if she’s sound and doing good and she only has two races left in her career – and she is definitely calling it a career at that point – I’d be inclined to keep her on a once-a-month schedule up to the Breeders’ Cup.”
NYRA Press/ Photo Credit: Adam Mooshian