The Ballerina, the 10th on a 13-race Travers Stakes Day card, is set for a 4:38 p.m. EDT post. Six older fillies and mares are entered against Sassy Image in the seven-furlong test, led by the Todd Pletcher-trained Hilda's Passion, the 2-1 morning line favorite.Sassy Image is pegged at 5-2.
The race is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Challenge Series event, with a berth in this November's Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs going to the winner.
Sassy Image, owned by Jerry Romans and trained by Dale, overcame a terrible trip to win the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) at Calder Casino and Race Course over a good track in her last start July 9. The victory ran the 4-year-old Broken Vow filly's current winning streak to three.
Sassy Image did not handle the track well in the six-furlong Princess Rooney, falling 15 lengths off the pace, and she still trailed the field at the furlong pole. But a remarkable late burst after rallying into contention on the extreme outside got her home by a neck over Musical Romance.
She also won the Winning Colors Stakes (gr. III) and Humana Distaff (gr. I), both at Churchill Downs in May. Robby Albarado, who rode Sassy Image to a three-length triumph in the seven-furlong Humana Distaff May 7, regains the mount, replacing Mike Smith. They have the far outside post.
Shipped to Saratoga after the Princess Rooney, Sassy Image has fired two bullet works over the main track, most recently covering five furlongs in :58.66 on Aug. 20.
“She’s training phenomenal,” said trainer Romans. “She had a super breeze the other day, and when she works like that, she usually runs well. I couldn’t be happier with her.”
J C Davis Farm bred the chestnut filly in Kentucky. A winner of seven of 14 races and $804,931 in her career, Sassy Image was purchased for $42,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2008. Five of her wins have come against graded company.
Starlight Racing's Hilda's Passion had been enjoying a similarly fabulous campaign in 2011 before folding up as the 3-10 favorite in the Bed o' Roses Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont Park July 3. She wound up sixth of seven and more than 12 lengths behind the victorious Tamarind Hall, who is also in the Ballerina field.
“There’s no real explanation for her last start,” Pletcher said. “We thought that the surface was a little peculiar that day. She never really fired, never got going, very unlike her normal performances. So we decided to freshen her up a touch and point for the Ballerina, and she has trained exceptionally well.”
Hilda's Passion, a 4-year-old daughter of Canadian Frontier, was a 5 1/2-length winner of the Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) prior to that. She also tallied twice at Gulfstream Park to begin the year, winning the Hurricane Bertie (gr. III) and Inside Information (gr. II) stakes impressively in front-running style.
She faced Sassy Image in the Humana Distaff and finished second as the 3-5 favorite after setting a quick pace.
Hilda's Passion lacks a first grade I victory on her record but owns a career mark of 7-2-0 in 13 starts with earnings of $589,493. Regular rider Javier Castellano is back aboard, and they will break from post 3.
Sassy Image and Hilda's Passion both carry 122 pounds.
Tar Heel Mom steps up a notch after a dominating 5 3/4-length victory over four rivals in Satatoga's Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) Aug 7. Stanley Hough trains the 6-year-old Flatter mare for Alex Rankin.
Tar Heel Mom, who figures to ensure an honest pace, has won three of her past five starts with a pair of seconds. The 11-time winner of $778,392 in her career is to be ridden once again by Alex Solis at 7-2 on the morning line.
Eklektikos Stable's Tamarind Hall also comes into the race in peak form for trainer Jeremiah Englehart. The 4-year-old Graeme Hall miss has won four of her past five starts, capped off by her dominating win in the Bed o' Roses. David Cohen has the return call.
Devil by Design returned from an eight-month layoff to win the Chicago Handicap (gr. III) July 3 at Arlington Park for trainer Bill Mott. The Polytrack victory was the first in a graded event for Eurowest Bloodstock's 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro mare. She is six-for-14 in her career.
Farnsworth Stables' Bronx City Girl missed by a head for trainer Marty Wolfson in the Regret Stakes July 31 at Monmouth Park. Mill House's Hour Glass, trained by Pletcher, was fourth in the same race as the favorite.
$250,000 Ballerina Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, 4:38 p.m., Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Hour Glass (KY), J R Velazquez, 117, T A Pletcher
2. Tamarind Hall (FL), D Cohen, 117, J C Englehart
3. Hilda's Passion (KY), J Castellano, 122, T A Pletcher
4. Bronx City Girl (KY), J R Leparoux, 115, M D Wolfson
5. Devil by Design (KY), C S Nakatani, 117, W I Mott
6. Tar Heel Mom (KY), A O Solis, 119, S M Hough
7. Sassy Image (KY), R Albarado, 122, D L Romans