Happy Ticket, a certified hometown star after winning her first eight starts in Louisiana, hits the big time Sunday in Saratoga's $250,000 Ballerina Handicap (gr. I).The seven-furlong Ballerina drew a field of seven fillies and mares.
Happy Ticket enters the Ballerina off the first and only loss of her 10-race career. She finished second to Madcap Escapade in Calder's Princess Rooney (gr. II) on July 10th. Prior to that, Happy Ticket had won six stakes in Louisiana and Arlington Park's Chicago Breeders' Cup (gr. III). "She's definitely the real deal," said the filly's trainer, Andrew Leggio Jr. "We came into the race in Chicago trying to prove she was that good and she stepped up to the plate. I know she's got everyone back home pulling for her. They want to see her take home a Grade 1 at Saratoga."Happy Ticket never got close to Madcap Escapade in the Princess Rooney, but stayed on gamely after a troubled trip. Under jockey Eddie Castro, Happy Ticket broke slow from post 3, rushed into contention and was steadied up the backstretch run. By the time Happy Ticket really got rolling, Madcap Escapade had kicked clear by an insurmountable margin."I thought she was going to be last after the trouble she had," Leggio said. "There was nothing to be ashamed of finishing second to Madcap Escapade. She's a top filly."Not only does Happy Ticket have a chance to take home the top prize in Sunday's prestigious Ballerina. She has also afforded the 71-year-old Leggio his first trip to Saratoga Springs.Happy Ticket drew post 2 under jockey John Velazquez. Bank Audit shares the high weight assignement of 122 pounds with My Trusty Cat. This daughter of Wild Rush is no stranger to New York racing fans, having won stakes this year at Aqueduct and Belmont Park. Bank Audit is one of three horses exiting the Honorable Miss (gr. II) on August 5, which was won by the speedy Forest Music. Bank Audit was the 2-1 favorite in the Honorable Miss off the strength of her 2005 victories in the Interborough, Distaff Breeders' Cup and Genuine Risk handicaps. Unfortunately, she could do no better than third, 6 ½ lengths behind the winner."Down the backside, she was getting hit with a lot of dirt," trainer Frank Laboccetta Jr. said. "She was flying and she ran a good race. I think it set her up fine for the Ballerina."Bank Audit, who does her best running from off the pace, drew post 4 under jockey Ramon Dominguez.
Forest Music was big in her first and only star for trainer Steve Asmussen, leading from start to finish in the aforementioned Honorable Miss. This daughter of Unbridled's Song breaks from the outside post under Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who won this race last year aboard the Asmussen-trained Lady Tak. Forest Music was clear early in the Honorable Miss, but that may not happen in the Ballerina thanks to the presence of the speedy Vision of Beauty. My Trusty Cat defeated Madcap Escapade and seven others in the Humana Distaff (gr. I). Last summer, this daughter of 1997 King's Bishop winner Tale of the Cat won the Honorable Miss and finished second, a head behind Lady Tak, in the Ballerina. $250,000 Ballerina Handicap (gr. I), fillies & mares 3 & up, 7 furlongs
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Vision of Beauty, John Ward, Edgar Prado, 115
2. Happy Ticket, Andrew Leggio Jr., John Velazquez, 117
3. Molto Vita, Dallas Stewart , Gary Stevens, 117
4. Bank Audit, Frank Laboccetta Jr., Ramon Dominguez, 122
5. Pleasant Home, Shug McGaughey, Cornelio Velasquez, 117
6. My Trusty Cat, David Vance, Javier Castellano, 122
7. Forest Music, Steve Asmussen, Jerry Bailey, 119