Carl R. Moore's multiple graded stakes winner Finley'sluckycharm will try to become the third filly in six years to sweep the Grade 2 Honorable Miss and the Grade 1, $600,000 Ketel One Ballerina as she heads a competitive field of nine on the Travers Day undercard Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
The 40th running of the seven-furlong Ballerina for fillies and mares, carded as Race 8 on Saturday's blockbuster 13-race card, is a Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” qualifier for the Filly & Mare Sprint on November 3 at Churchill Downs and will kick off the $1 million guaranteed Late Pick 4, comprised of the Ballerina, the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego, the Grade 1, $1 million Sword Dancer, and the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, Finley'sluckycharm is exiting a 2 ¼-length victory in the July 25 Honorable Miss, where she raced close to a honest pace over the good going and drew clear in the final sixteenth under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr.
“I thought the Honorable Miss was a nice race for her,” said Calhoun. “I don't think it was an overly stressful race for her and that has allowed us to bounce back in four weeks. That's always what we wanted to do, but we wanted to wait and see how hard that race was on her. But, she's come out of it well and we're looking forward to the Ballerina with her.”
Should Finley'sluckycharm win the Ballerina, she will join Haveyougoneaway (2016) and Dance to Bristol (2013) as fillies or mares that have won the Honorable Miss and the Ballerina in the same year. Furlough won the 1998 Honorable Miss and the 1999 Ballerina, while Classy Mirage took the 1994 and 1995 editions of the respective races.
The 5-year-old Twirling Candy mare is a neck away from being undefeated at the Honorable Miss' six-furlong distance, beaten that margin by Paulassilverlining in last year's Honorable Miss. She owns a pair of wins at seven furlongs, including a just-in-time victory in the Grade 1 Madison this spring at Keeneland. Overall, Finley'sluckycharm owns 11 wins and three seconds from 17 career starts for earnings of $913,068.
“That was a tough beat last year, so it was nice to see her turn it around,” Calhoun said. “In her younger years, she might've been a little better at a shorter distance, but I think as she's gotten older, she's learned how to relax better. I don't see a lot of difference with her anymore at seven-eighths. I think she's gotten to where she's just as good at seven-eighths as she is at three-quarters. She's got a very high cruising speed, she relaxes, and she's able to carry it, but it doesn't bother her if she's taken back some either. She's pretty versatile at this point. She's a little bit better all around.”
Hernandez has the return call aboard Finley'sluckycharm, who will break from post 5 carrying the field's top weight of 124 pounds.
Cairenn will take a major step up in class as she makes her Grade 1 debut on Saturday for trainer Graham Motion and owners Heider Family Stable, Madaket Stable and Michael Kisber.
Cairenn, a 4-year-old filly by First Dude, put in a late run from mid-pack to finish second by a length to Your Love in the Shine Again on August 4. She has hit the board in all three starts since moving to Motion's barn this spring, including third-place finishes in the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses at Belmont Park and the Dashing Beauty July 7 at Delaware Park.
“It's obviously going to be a very competitive race; it's a Grade 1, but hopefully she can get a piece of it,” said Motion. “She seems to be doing well. She's been training well up there and she ran well up there, so there's a lot of positives.
“She's just a lovely, kind, willing filly,” he added. “She's very attractive and very easy to be around, and she just seems to go out there and run her race every time. She got buried down on the rail in the stake at Delaware, which I don't think she particularly cared for. I think she'd rather come outside horses. I think the distance on Saturday is probably good for her, and the fact that she's been training there I think is probably to her benefit. Hopefully that plays in her favor.”
Cairenn will be ridden from post 4 by Jose Ortiz.
Leading meet trainer Chad Brown will be represented by Alpha Delta Stable's millionaire homebred Lewis Bay, making her first start since dominating the seven-furlong Bed o' Roses by 5 ½ lengths on June 8.
The daughter of Bernardini was a multiple graded stakes winner when she was sidelined in late 2016. She returned from a 12-plus-month layoff in December to win the Grade 3 Rampart at Gulfstream Park and hasn't finished worse than third in four starts as a 5-year-old in 2018.
“She ran so fast last time that I wanted to give her a long time between races. I would love to see her win a Grade 1. She really deserves it,” said Brown.
Lewis Bay will break from post 6 with leading meet rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard.
China Horse Club, Madaket Stable, and Mathis Stable's Ivy Bell will cut back in distance for the Todd Pletcher barn. By Archarcharch, the 5-year-old mare was second to Abel Tasman in the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps on June 9 at Belmont and finished fourth last time out in the Grade 3 Shuvee at 1 1/8 miles on July 29 at Saratoga.
Ivy Bell, whose top victory to date came by a length going seven furlongs in the Grade 2 Inside Information in March at Gulfstream, will have the services of Hall of Famer Javier Castellano from post 2.
Marley's Freedom will make her first start in New York for Cicero Farm and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The 4-year-old Blame filly has won her last three races, including the Grade 3 Desert Stormer by 7 ¼ lengths at Santa Anita Park and the Grade 2 Great Lady M at Los Alamitos since moving to Baffert's barn in the spring. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be aboard Marley's Freedom, who will break from post 7.
Chester and Mary Broman's New York-bred Highway Star will try to improve on her runner-up finish in last year's Ballerina, where she was beaten a head by By the Moon. The chestnut mare by Girolamo has finished second in her last three starts, including the Grade 2 Ruffian, the Critical Eye for state-breds and the Bed o' Roses. The Rodrigo Ubillo trainee will be ridden by Luis Saez from the outside post 9.
Tequilita, Still There, and Union Strike round out the field for the Ballerina.
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