The Grade 1 Ballerina has been on the Travers Day program for the last few years. It got moved to the following day this season, and that’s a switch I applaud. Travers Day doesn’t need every single Grade 1 race, and the Ballerina’s a cool event that’s able to stand on its own.
This year’s Ballerina is more than worthy of “main event” status. Ce Ce has won nearly $2.3 million in taking races like the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Obligatory and Bella Sofia are Grade 1 winners. Goodnight Olive tries graded stakes company for the first time after four wins in a row for the meet’s leading trainer.
This card is a good one. The feature race is a good one. And the decision to give this race center stage was, you guessed it, a good one. Kudos, NYRA.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Five went down in flames early, as I got nosed in the first leg and dropped $40 after scratches.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll primarily focus on the late Pick Four, where I think there’s value to be had thanks to wide-open races in the first and last legs. My 50-cent ticket starts in the seventh and goes as follows: 1,2,3,6 with 4 with 1,2 with 2,4,6,8,9,12. I’ll also have a $10 win bet on #7 BUSTIN BULLET in the third, where I’ll hope to get something close to the 8-1 morning line price.
TOTAL WAGERED: $34.
Best Bet: Wit, Race 8
Longshot: Lupo’s Legacy, Race 10
My Betsy (MTO)
#2 XIGERA: Ran second behind one of the better 2-year-olds we’ve seen all summer in her debut and has every right to improve at second asking. This barn has been sending out live runners from its small string this meet, and I think she may prove tough to catch; #7 AKAYLA: Sold for $650,000 at auction earlier this year and is by top European sire Kingman, who’s proven to be an amazing turf influence. That 446 turf Tomlinson rating jumps off the page (it’s rare to see one much above 350), and this barn always merits respect in these races; #1 JUSTIFIABLE BELLE: Is bred in the purple (by Justify, out of a Giant’s Causeway mare) and comes in off of a turf drill that’s very fast by this barn’s standards. Luis Saez has been enlisted to ride, and she’s got an opportunity to show some talent in the Sunday opener.
#4 BOLD VICTORY: Generally runs the same race every time out and has shown he can pass others late. He was third in a race at this level last month, one that didn’t exactly set up for his running style. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be; #3 CRYO: Hasn’t won in a while but has been second twice at this stand and gets a big rider switch to Javier Castellano. He’s shown an ability to stalk and have something left for the stretch run, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends the drought here; #5 HIGHER QUALITY: Topped my second choice at this route in the opening days of the meet and is protected first off the claim in a spot that didn’t come up overwhelmingly strong. A repeat of his efforts for his prior connections may be good enough for him to record his third win in just five career outings.
New York Banker (MTO)
Abuse of Power
#7 BUSTIN BULLET: Had a very eventful trip last time out and was beaten just a length in that event. Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back, and the outside draw in a smaller field may ensure a cleaner trip for a runner that could be a bit of a price; #3 ABUSE OF POWER: Topped a group of claimers at this route earlier in the meet and may very well go off favored here. She’s run reasonably well against OK groups in the past, but I can’t help but wonder how much what seemed like a perfect trip moved her forward last time out; CORMS ENTRY: I prefer #1 MISPELLED MOOON, who’s hit the board in each of her last five starts. That includes a good second in a similar race last time out, and I think she may prove to be the one they have to catch turning for home.
#2 GASOLINE: Probably bounced off of a career-best try two back last time out, when he faltered as a 6/5 favorite. That effort two starts ago saw him come within a length of next-out Curlin winner Artorius, and his pedigree says this two-turn trip will hit him right between the eyes; #5 SIDEKICK: Made a middle move while racing wide last time out, and it’s not surprising he tired late to finish a distant second. He’s got every chance to improve in his second start at this route, and the switch to John Velazquez is a notable one; #3 CLOUD FOREST: Has run back-to-back clunkers, but this is his first two-turn dirt outing and his career debut going long was good enough to make me think there’s still potential here. He earned an 87 Beyer Speed Figure in that event, and such an effort would likely get him a piece of this one at a price.
#4 MICROPHONE: Was a disappointment when third as the 3/5 favorite last time out downstate, but his best efforts have come going two turns and he gets such a route in this spot. It also helps that that day’s winner came back to win again, and that this doesn’t seem like an overly strong first-level allowance; #5 EXULT: May have needed his last-out effort, which was his first start in 13 months. He didn’t have a great trip that day, and he’s a candidate to improve with that seasoning and a cleaner journey; #6 IRWIN: Was fourth in the race my second choice exits and possesses enough tactical speed to be able to work out a favorable trip. He’s another that seems to improve with two turns, and he might be the one to catch when the real running starts.
Love to Shop
#4 HIGH CLASS: Dueled with Prank last time out, and that, predictably, didn’t end well for her. She comes back here, and while this is another tough spot, her experience edge over her competition should prove valuable, and that’s enough to earn a tepid nod in a wide-open event; #11 ALPHA BELLA: Needs a scratch to draw in off the AE list but will be a major player if she’s allowed to run. This daughter of Justify is kin to five winners, including multiple stakes winner Andina Del Sur, and she’s been working very well for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher…; #9 LOVE TO SHOP: …who also saddles this promising daughter of Violence. Her dam is a half-sister to Grade 1-placed Talk Veuve To Me, and this one’s two local drills after shipping up from Monmouth Park look very sharp.
Train to Artemus
#2 FREEDOMOFTHEPRESS: Has been competitive against starter allowance foes and drops into this restricted claiming event for non-winners of three. It’s a significantly weaker spot than the ones she’s been running in, and I think she sits an ideal stalking trip just outside of…; #1 O’GOTTEN GIRL: …who probably gets back to the right level after trying starter allowance company first off the claim. She’s got enough early speed to make the rail draw an asset, and the rider change to Irad Ortiz, Jr., is a big one; #3 TRAIN TO ARTEMUS: Took a big step forward to spring a mild upset last time out, and that day’s rider, Flavien Prat, sees fit to ride back here. She’s improved in each of her three starts since coming off a very long layoff, and if my top two choices tire themselves out up front, this one stands to benefit.
#4 WIT: Came flying late to be second behind a loose-on-the-lead winner in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame last time out. This race not only seems a bit weaker than that one, it also seems to have drawn more runners with early zip. Put all of that together, and I think this one will be tough to fend off in the Better Talk Now; #7 NAPOLEONIC WAR: Ran too poorly to be true in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, when he was 11th behind the likes of Classic Causeway and Nations Pride. This is obviously a step down from that level of competition, and perhaps it’s enough to get this one his first stakes score; #8 RIOT HOUSE: Is 2-for-2 going two turns on turf, albeit against weaker groups at Gulfstream Park. However, maybe his connections have just found what he wants to do, and the recent local turf drills sure seem to hint this one is relishing his time in upstate New York.
#1 CE CE: Sure seems like she hasn’t lost a step since winning last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Her win in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park was dominant, and a similar effort would make her tough to top in the Grade 1 Ballerina; #2 OBLIGATORY: Wants to drop back and make one big late run, and she may get a race shape conducive to that running style. If she gets a scorching pace, which might well materialize in this spot, she and jockey Jose Ortiz will be licking their chops coming off the far turn; #7 GOODNIGHT OLIVE: Has won four in a row, and while this is a significant step up, she’s done nothing wrong of late and draws a cushy outside post in this one. Her flexible running style should provide plenty of options for Irad Ortiz, Jr., and the 5-1 morning line price hits me as a slight overlay.
Rocket’s Red Glare
#4 STEADY ON: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and has been training forwardly ahead of his unveiling. His second dam won multiple Grade 1 races as a 2-year-old, so there’s some potential for precocity here, and the recent five-furlong turf drill jumps off the page; #8 LUPO’S LEGACY: Has been working well ahead of his debut, and his bottom-side pedigree includes plenty of turf. His dam was stakes-placed on the lawn at two, and his second dam, Queen Amira, was a stakes-winning turf sprinter. 12-1 hits me as way too big a price; #2 ROCKET’S RED GLARE: Was one-paced in his debut after having some issues at the gate. Linda Rice trainees often need a race or two to get going, and I think improvement is logical given the experience he gained a few weeks ago.