Top Filly Balletto Returns After 17-Month Layoff

(from Gulfstream Park)
Darley Stable homebred Balletto, last seen finishing second to Eclipse champion Sweet Catomine in the Alberto VO5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Lone Star Park Oct. 30, 2004, completes her long road back Thursday at Gulfstream Park.

Trained by Tom Albatrani, the 4-year-old filly appears in the eighth race, an optional claiming/allowance, with jockey Edgar Prado aboard in a field of six fillies and mares going one mile. The daughter of 1995 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Timber Country, on the sidelines for nearly 17 months, was bred in the United Arab Emirates.

Prado was aboard Balletto when she won her career debut at Belmont Park in July of 2004, but she had four different riders in her last four starts. Aaron Gryder was aboard when Balletto finished second in the Matron Stakes (gr. I), and Corey Nakatani rode her to win the Frizette (gr. I) at Belmont. Jerry Bailey had the reins in the Breeders' Cup. For the year, Balletto was first or second in all five races and earned $614,000.

After the Breeders' Cup, she was sent to Dubai for the winter without racing. She was set back by surgery for an impacted intestine in June while training for a return in the U.S., and was briefly retired. Albertrani had her nominated for last Saturday's Rampart Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream, but opted to wait for a less demanding spot for her return.

A half-sister to Irish group winner Dearly, Balletto is out of graded stakes winner Destiny Dance (by Nijinsky II). Her second dam is champion Althea.

Buckram Oak Farm's 4-year-old filly Carmania and Lael Stable's Chilean-bred La Chiflota appear to be Balletto's biggest threats.

Velazquez rode Carmania to win a 'two other than' allowance race going seven furlongs in her last start at Aqueduct in November for trainer Rick Dutrow.

La Chiflota, a 4-year-old daughter of Hussonet trained by Barclay Tagg, ran well to finish third in a 'three other than' allowance going six furlongs at Gulfstream Feb. 22. She won three times and finished second twice in as many starts last year in her native Chile.