Dance to Bristol ran her winning streak to seven races with her first grade I tally in the $500,000 Ballerina Stakes, staving off favored Book Review by a head with determination Aug. 23 at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
Ridden by Xavier Perez, second choice Dance to Bristol took the lead from pacesetter Classic Point at the furlong mark and held forth under urging in a terrific finish over the final sixteenth. The time for the seven-furlong test for fillies and mares was 1:23.11 on a fast track.
Ollie Figgins III trains the winning 4-year-old daughter of Speightstown for owner Susan Wantz. Bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. David Garner, the chestnut filly is out of the winning Louis Quatorze mare Dance to Dawn.
"Her will to win is what makes her special," said Figgins after his first grade I triumph. "Book Review had dead aim on her inside the eighth pole. Once she saw her coming, she just wouldn't let her by."
Dance to Bristol earns an automatic starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park as part of the "Win & You're In" challenge series. Book Review was second, with the late-running Villanesca narrowly taking third over 63-1 outsider Street Girl.
Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) runner-up Judy the Beauty, bet to 3-1 in the 10-horse field, was scratched at the post after apparently injuring herself in the starting gate. Trainer Wesley Ward said afterward that the daughter of Ghostzapper lost a tooth but was otherwise uninjured.
Dance to Bristol won the Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) July 29 at Saratoga, and is now 2-for-2 over the track. She has posted five stakes victories during her current streak.
Breaking from the rail at odds of 8-5, Dance to Bristol settled into a stalking spot fourth, angling off the inside as Classic Point went to the lead over Fantasy of Flight and Glorious View. Book Review, the 3-2 pick, was unhurried in seventh. Classic Point, ridden by Alex Solis, set a sensible clip while maintaining about a length on Fantasy of Flight, stepping the first quarter mile in :23.03 and reaching the three-eighths pole in :45.89.
Dance to Bristol advanced into second, poised to strike on the outside of Classic Point, who fought on gamely before being overtaken mid-stretch. Book Review, circling the field five wide and driving under Rafael Bejarano, was closing relentlessly from fifth, however. But with Perez providing stout encouragement, Dance to Bristol would not be headed, getting to the line just in time over the surging challenger.
Upon seeing Book Review closing in, Figgins said, "My thought was we would see what kind of heart my horse has. Luckily, she came running close to us where my filly could see her, and I think that helped her."
Perez said Dance to Bristol was impatient while standing in the one-hole as the start was delayed because of Judy the Beauty's mishap.
"She got a sharp break and I asked her to settle, and she did it," he said. "I put her right behind the leaders and she just dropped the bit and got comfortable. When I asked her at the five-sixteenths to move, she responded pretty good and gave me a hundred percent and just kept going. When she felt that horse, Book Review, coming on the outside, she just kept digging in."
Perez added, "She's something else; she's amazing. She's the best horse I ever rode in my whole career. I think it's going to be the one that's going to take me to the Breeders' Cup."
Bajarano, aboard Book Review, said he had every opportunity to win, "but the other horse never quit."
It was 1 1/2 lengths back to Darley Stable's Villanesca, making her graded stakes debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. She finished a nose better than Street Girl, who was followed by Classic Point a neck farther back. Then came Starship Truffles, Fantasy of Flight, Sure Route, Moment in Dixie, and Glorious View.
The superbly consistent Dance to Bristol won for the 10th time in 18 starts with seven seconds, good for earnings of $920,880. Perez has ridden in all seven of her consecutive triumphs.
Figgins said Dance to Bristol may race again before the Breeders' Cup.
"We'll get her back to the barn, see how she is, and go from there," he said. "Once again, she's a very easy filly, she lets you know how she is. If she bounces out of the race well, then we may look for something."
Asked what it means to get a grade I win with Dance to Bristol, Figgins said, "It's very special, very special. The filly, she's done everything right, nothing wrong. She's a good horse, and I hope the world knows that."
The winner carried 119 pounds and paid $5.50, $3.10, and $2.50 while topping a $16.20 exacta. Gary and Mar West's homebred Book Review, making her first start since winning the July 13 A Gleam Handicap Handicap (gr. II) by 2 1/2 lengths, returned $2.90 and $2.40. Villanesca was $4.50 to show.