Samantha Siegel's By The Moon avenged her half-length defeat in last year's Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes by pulling out a victory in the 2017 running, simultaneously earning an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. The 5-year-old Indian Charlie mare got out of the gate well and was allowed to lead the field at a moderate pace, and jockey Rajiv Maragh kept her motivated through the stretch to hold off Highway Star by a head at the wire. Trained by Michelle Nevin, By The Moon got seven furlongs over Saratoga's fast main track in 1:22.97.
“It looked like there wasn't a ton of speed in here,” said Nevin. “Rajiv [Maragh] had talked about it yesterday and this morning that he wanted to be prepared right out of the gate to see what kind of scenario was going to unfold. Oh my God, did he give her a great ride. This was a wide-open race with some very good fillies and I think just tactics and an excellent ride won the race. Awesome job.”
Along with Paulassilverlining and Highway Star, By The Moon got out of the gate efficiently to have a slight lead in the first 100 yards of the Ballerina. Maragh allowed his filly to draw that advantage out to about three-quarters of a length, but kept the pace very slow for the distance, marking the first quarter in 24.05 seconds. By The Moon led Highway Star, with a well-bunched grouping of Paulassilverlining, Curlin's Approval, and Carina Mia making up the middle of the pack. Birdatthewire had missed the break, and rushed up to have to be pulled off heels at the rear of the field near the five-furlong marker.
Highway Star slowly inched forward into By The Moon's lead as the pair clocked a half-mile in :47.81, and Carina Mia was moving forward all through the far turn. At the head of the lane, By The Moon and Highway Star were nearly dead-even, and the two remained locked in battle for the entire stretch drive. Highway Star never quit fighting, but By The Moon proved just a bit better as she crossed the wire a head in front of her rival. Carina Mia was up for third, having briefly threatened from the center of the stretch before flattening out, and Birdatthewire made a belated bid to finish fourth.
“It was a very moderate pace for this kind of race at this distance so I was really happy with it,” Maragh said. “All the way down the backstretch I was really comfortable where I was. I took a peek to my outside and saw that Highway Star [No. 7] was outside of me, so I definitely knew we were going slow because she doesn't have that much speed, so it made me feel really happy about where I was. I just wanted to be patient and not move until I had to, and down the stretch when I saw that they started coming at me and when I asked her she just gave me that kick that she has and she did the rest from there.”
Bred in Kentucky by her owner, By The Moon is out of the graded stakes-placed Malibu Moon mare By The Light, winner of 10 of her 20 career starts. After By The Moon's big effort in last year's Ballerina, Nevin sent her straight to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, in which she finished a respectable fifth. Since then, the mare has not been worse than third, and the Ballerina marks her second career Grade 1 win. Overall, By The Moon's record stands at 7-7-2 from 19 starts, with earnings of over $1.5 million.
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