SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Juddmonte homebred Viadera held off High Opinion’s inside rush to win Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for older fillies and mares to kick off the stakes action on Runhappy Travers Day at Saratoga Race Course.
The 5-year-old daughter of Bated Breath was one of three entrants in the six-horse field for meet-leading trainer Chad Brown, along with Tamahere and Kalifornia Queen.
Tamahere broke sharp for Irad Ortiz, Jr. and led the field through splits of 22.60 seconds, 47.55 and 1:12.12 on the firm inner turf, with Platinum Paynter tracking in second position as Viadera saved ground in third under Joel Rosario.
Viadera advanced up the rail through the final turn as Kalifornia Queen rallied outside rivals with New York Girl following in kind. Viadera angled to the three-path out of the turn and dug in gamely to reel in the pacesetter as High Opinion, who saved ground throughout under Luis Saez, made her move up the rail.
Rosario kept to task on his charge and Viadera put her nose down on the wire to secure the narrow win over a game High Opinion in a final time of 1:41.82.
“Joel got in really good position this time and made sure there weren’t too many horses in front of him and in his way when he wanted to make his run,” said Brown. “She got a nice, pocketed ground-saving trip, and once again she showed that she knows where the wire is. She’s won a couple of close photo finishes now in her career.”
It was the sixth Ballston Spa score for Brown, who previously won with Zagora , Dacita , Lady Eli , Quidura  and Significant Form .
Viadera launched her career in Europe for trainer Ger Lyons before being transferred to Brown’s care last year, capturing the restricted De La Rose here by a neck in her second North American start last July.
The late-running mare followed with a pair of narrow scores in graded events, taking the Grade 3 Nobel Damsel by a neck in September at Belmont ahead of a nose score in the Grade 1 Matriarch in November at Del Mar.
“She has an affinity for the wire, this horse,” Brown said. “If you train horses long enough you’ll realize that certain horses know where it is on the winning end and some seem to come up on the losing end. She’s one of the ones who knows where it is.”
Out of the Beat Hollow mare Sacred Shield, Viadera launched her current campaign with a troubled fourth in the De La Rose on August 8.
“I think last time she was coming off a long layoff and the pace didn’t work out all that well,” said Juddmonte general manager Garrett O’Rourke. “It was better here. She was sharper and I still thought the filly on the inside [High Opinion] probably had momentum on us going to the line, but she just has a way of always getting her nose down on the line. She keeps winning photo finishes and everyone wants a horse with ability, but that competitive edge is fantastic as well.”
Rosario said a clean trip was the key to victory.
“It was a better trip today with horses being in front and I was able to track there for a little bit,” Rosario said. “Turning for home, I was clear. She always tries really hard. She’s a very good filly.
“At the last minute, I knew the horse was coming inside [High Opinion], but she was so game and fighting going forward, so I was never worried about it, but that horse came very close.”
Kalifornia Queen rallied late to complete the trifecta, a half-length back of High Opinion and a head in front of Tamahere. New York Girl and Platinum Paynter rounded out the order of finish.
“My filly tried pretty hard. I had a lot of confidence in her because I know she always tries,” said Saez regarding High Opinion. “She did a good job, so we’re pretty happy with how she ran. But when we got through, it was a little too late. It was a little bit tough at the end because I was inside, and she got a little bit tired there right at the end. For a second, I thought we had it won. That was a tough beat, but that’s racing.”
Bred in Great Britain by her owner, Viadera banked $220,000 in victory while improving her record to 15-7-1-1. Sent to post as the 4-5 mutuel favorite, Viadera returned $3.60 for a $2 win ticket.
Brown said Viadera could target the Grade 1, $400,000 First Lady on October 9 at Keeneland.
“It sure looks that way,” Brown said. “I’m not sure if she’s a Breeders’ Cup horse, but we sure would like to go back and defend her title in the Matriarch [on November 28 at Del Mar] at the end of the year, which will most likely, all things being equal, be the last start of her career. First thing first we’ll see how she comes out of the race and see if she can make that race at Keeneland.”
Ballston Spa Replay
Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring the $120,000 Better Talk Now, a one-mile inner-turf test for sophomores who have not won a stakes at one mile or over. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
By Keith McCalmont/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Joel Rosario and Viadera clips Luis Saez and High Opinion by a nose at the wire to win the Ballston Spa. (Chelsea Durand)