Balto Star Pace Danger in Sword Dancer

Balto Star Pace Danger in Sword Dancer
Photo: Equi-Photo, Bill Denver
Balto Star defeats The Tin Man and Lunar Sovereign in United Nations upset win.
Anstu Stables' Balto Star is the one catch in the $500,000 Sword Dancer Handicap (gr. IT) at 1 1/2 miles on turf Saturday at Saratoga. If he gets the kind of pace he enjoys, they may not be able to do it.

After running a gutsy second in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT), Balto Star wrenched an ankle. Trainer Todd Pletcher was not all that confident going into the 11-furlong United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park on July 3, Balto Star's first start back since the ankle injury.

"We were kind of cutting it close in the United Nations," Pletcher admitted. "I felt that rather than running him a mile, we'd go ahead and take a crack at it since he had run so well in it last year. We were a little concerned that he might not be 110 percent that day. I think he ran his race, he just flattened out a little bit the last eighth of a mile."

Balto Star won the United Nations last year at 37-1 before his puzzling last-place effort in the Sword Dancer.

"Maybe we'll have a reversal," Pletcher said. "Last year, we won the United Nations and didn't run any good in here. This year we didn't run any good in the United Nations, so maybe we'll win here."

Balto Star, who will be ridden by John Velazquez and carry 120 pounds, seems to always makes the lead. When he is able to get clear, that helps. It still doesn't make him a cinch.

"He's a great horse when the pace scenario unfolds the right way, he's capable of beating anyone," Pletcher said.

Sam Knighton's Request for Parole, who carries top weight of 123 pounds in the field of six, won the United Nations and will likely be favored in the Sword Dancer. Trainer Stanley Hough passed up a chance to run in the Arlington Million, opting instead to keep the 5-year-old closer to home.

"I considered the Arlington Million, but that race is a mile and a quarter," said Hough. "I wanted to keep him at a mile and a half or a mile and three-eighths. The Manhattan was a mile and a quarter and he ran good (fifth) without getting the best trip, but I think he's a little better at a mile and three-eighths to a mile and a half."

If all goes well, Request for Parole's next two starts would be during Belmont Park's Fall Championship Meet in a pair of grade I events – the $500,000 Man o' War on Sept. 11 and the $750.000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Oct. 2.

With a chance of rain through Friday, Hough is hoping the grass does not get too wet for the Sword Dancer.

"I don't want a soft course," Hough said. "If we don't get a lot of rain and Saturday is a nice day, we should be okay. The only race that he didn't run well on the grass was over a soft course. He has run okay on a good course. A little give would be okay."

Trainer Dallas Stewart will saddle Chrysalis Stables' Silverfoot in the Sword Dancer. The 4-year-old gelding has never been worse than fourth on the grass with four victories to his credit. He rallied to finish second going 1 1/2 miles in the Stars & Stripes at Arlington last month, but was disqualified to fourth.

"He had some bad luck in the Stars & Stripes," Stewart said. "He's been right there in all his turf races. This could be a big weekend for us. This is where we can hopefully get even for all the rent we've paid up here."

$500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT, 4:55 ET), 3 & up, 1 1/2 miles on turf
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Balto Star, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 120
2. Silverfoot, Dallas Stewart, Robby Albarado, 116
3. Better Talk Now, H. Graham Motion, Ramon Dominguez, 118
4. Request for Parole, Stanley Hough, Javier Castellano, 123
5. Rochester, Jonathan Sheppard, Cornelio Velasquez, 116
6. B. A. Way, Richard Violette, Shaun Bridgmohan, 116

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