(Edited NYRA press release)
Harmony Lodge will attempt to become just the second female in history to win consecutive runnings of the Grade $250,000 Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) when she faces off against seven rivals Sunday at Saratoga .Only Shine Again (2001-'02) has repeated as the Ballerina winner.
The featured ninth race on a 10-race card, the Ballerina will be contested at seven furlongs over the main track.
A 6-year-old, Harmony Lodge continues to compete against the best female sprinters in the land, at an age when just about any other horse of her stature would be a broodmare.
"She's been such a sweetheart for us," said Harmony Lodge's trainer, Todd Pletcher, who also entered $1.5-million earner Smok'n Frolic in the Ballerina. "We've had her her whole career and had (2000 Jim Dandy, gr. II, winner) Graeme Hall, her older half-brother. It's been a great family to us, and last year's Ballerina was a satisfying win for her and us. It was great getting a grade I win with a mare you know is grade I quality."
After her Ballerina victory, Harmony Lodge won Belmont's Gallant Bloom (gr. II) and Gulfstream's First Lady (gr. II). Lately, though, it has been a bumpy road. Harmony Lodge has lost her last four races, two of them as the favorite. In her last start, she was uncharacteristically flat when last of six in Calder's Princess Rooney on July 10.
"She is six, and you wonder if she's lost a half a step," Pletcher said. "Pulling the Ragozin numbers on her, she's been running exactly the same numbers as she did last year. We mapped this schedule out, and we're trying to repeat what we did last year from a scheduling standpoint.
"She had an inside post in the Princess Rooney and wasn't quite quick enough to get there. She was in a situation she wasn't real happy in, getting dirt kicked in her face. It never unfolded the right way. She's come out of it well and has trained well up here. I think she's back on her 'A' game."
Harmony Lodge, a major pace player in the Ballerina, drew post 4 and will have her regular rider, Richard Migliore, aboard. Harmony Lodge is the co-highweight with Lady Tak at 119 pounds.
Smok'n Frolic, a 5-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken, has had a successful career for the Pletcher barn, too. She is a multiple stakes winner at various distances ranging from five to nine furlongs.
"She's been a warrior," Pletcher said. "She's been so successful at so many different distances and racetracks."
Smok'n Frolic ran third in last summer's Honorable Miss (gr. II), the Saratoga prep for the Ballerina, but never fired in the Ballerina, finishing eighth to stablemate Harmony Lodge. Smok'n Frolic is repeating that pattern this time around after running third in the 2004 Honorable Miss to My Trusty Cat.
"I was very optimistic in the Ballerina last year," Pletcher said. "I thought everything was setting up for her, but she didn't quite fire that day. Every once in a while, she'll throw in a clunker. I think she's sitting on a good one."
Smok'n Frolic, who is winless in six starts at Saratoga, drew post 8. Her rider is Edgar Prado.
Six fillies -- Blitey, Love Sign, Lass Trump, Lady's Secret, Chaposa Springs and Dream Supreme -- have won Saratoga's premier sprint for 3-year-old fillies, the Test (gr. I), and the Ballerina. Lady Tak, last year's Test winner, has a chance to join the crew.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Lady Tak has won eight of 15 starts and nearly $900,000. She defeated Bird Town, the eventual 3-year-old filly champion, in last summer's Test.
Lady Tak, who is 2-0-1 from four starts this season, ran third in her last race, the Princess Rooney. Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey has the mount.
The field for the Ballerina:
PP HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY WGT.
1 My Boston Gal Carl Nafzger Robby Albarado 117
2 Final Round Rusty Arnold Javier Castellano 113
3 Lady Tak Steve Asmussen Jerry Bailey 119
4 Harmony Lodge Todd Pletcher Richard Migliore 119
5 Ebony Breeze Bill Mott Cornelio Velasquez 115
6 Molto Vita Dallas Stewart Jorge Chavez 114
7 My Trusty Cat David Vance John Velazquez 116
8 Smok'n Frolic Todd Pletcher Edgar Prado 115