Darley Stable's Balletto rallied late after ducking away from wavering leader Sis City near the eighth pole to win the $500,000 Frizette (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies at Belmont Park.
The 6-5 favorite in the field of eight, Balletto, ridden hard by Corey Nakatani along the rail, registered a three-quarters of a length win over Ready's Gal and John Velazquez. Sis City, with Eibar Coa aboard, held on for third after opening up a daylight lead in the stretch. She was three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up.
A United Arab Emirates-bred daughter of Timber Country, Balletto was winning for the third time in the four starts while capturing her first stakes. Her lone loss came in a second-place finish to Sense of Style in the Sept. 19 Matron (gr. I) at Belmont.
Thomas Albertrani, who trains Balletto, was non-committal on whether the filly would run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Lone Star Park Oct. 30.
"Whatever happens after this, we'll make a decision later on. We have no definite plans at the moment. She's probably the first UAE-bred to win a Grade 1 in the states."
The final time Saturday for the 1 1/16-mile Frizett was 1:43 2/5.
Sis City took over the lead from Darn That Girl shortly after the start and set a solid pace of :23 and :46 1/5. Balletto, who broke last, was far back in the field early. She began to make up ground along the inside on the far turn as Sis City came under pressure from J P Jewel, Darn That Gal and Ready's Gal.
As the others fell away, Ready's Gal and Balletto chased Sis City down the lane. Sis City appeared to be the winner but she drifted out inside the furlong pole and then angled inward while erratic under Coa's guidance. Balletto ducked in reaction as she continued to close, took up briefly and then battled gamely to the wire. She wore down Sis City and held off Ready's Gal for the win.
"She was an old professional," Nakatani said of Balletto. "I pointed her in the right direction and saved ground. I moved her back to the inside when that horse (Sis City) ran a little bit green ahead of me. I had to shift her to the inside and kept her busy through the last sixteenth of the race. It showed me that she is really guts and she is an `old' pro."
Both trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez were upset about Sis City's tour of the stretch and felt it compromised Ready's Gal's chances.
"The other horse (Sis City) messed me up," Velazquez said. "Went all the way out, and then went back in again. The other one (Balletto) got through. My momentum was slowed up. The other one got the jump on me."
The $300,000 winner's share pushed Balletto's career earnings to $414,000.
She paid $4.70, $2.70 and $2.30. Ready's Gal returned $3.30 and $3.10. Sis City's show was $3.70. The $2 exacta was worth $14.
Play With fire finished fourth, followed by Shebelongstoyou, Darn That Girl, J P Jewel and Comacina.