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Champion Gamine Returns To Saratoga For Ballerina
Gamine winning the 2020 Test (Credit: NYRA)

Champion Gamine Returns To Saratoga For Ballerina

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Michael Lund Petersen’s Gamine, the Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter of 2020, will get another chance to flash her championship form over a track she dominated last summer when she heads a field of seven in Saturday’s , $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.

The 43rd running of the 7-furlong Ballerina for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up is a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) November 6 at Del Mar.

Headlined by the 152nd running of the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers (G1), Saturday’s stakes-laden card at Saratoga includes the $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer (G1); the $600,000 Personal Ensign (G1) presented by Lia Infiniti; the $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina (G1); the $600,000 Forego (G1); the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1); and the $400,000 Ballston Spa (G2).

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Gamine, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, was a runaway winner of last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint 2 starts after a front-running 7-length romp in the Longines Test (G1) at Saratoga, her only previous local appearance.

“She’s filled out and she looks good and she’s been working well, so we wouldn’t send her unless we thought she was doing really well,” Baffert said. “We’re excited about it. She always runs well when she goes back East. She likes the Eastern tracks.”

Gamine, a 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, showed that not only in the 7-furlong Test but also the 1-mile Longines Acorn (G1) last June at Belmont Park, her first race outside of California, which she won by 18 3/4 lengths in 1:32.55, shaving more than a second off the previous stakes record of 1:34.05.

“She’s just a brilliant filly. It’s fun watching her run. The owner loves watching her run. We’re looking forward to it, but you still need to break well and you still need racing luck. Everything’s got to go right,” Baffert said.

Gamine has won each of her 3 starts this year, starting with the Las Flores (G3) April 4 at Santa Anita contested at 6 furlongs, and adding her fourth career Grade 1 triumph in the 7-furlong Derby City Distaff May 1 at Churchill Downs. She rolled by 10 lengths in the Great Lady M (G2) July 5 at Los Alamitos under regular rider and Hall of Famer John Velazquez.

“That’s Gamine. That’s her. He was trying to slow her down,” Baffert said. “When she runs, she always runs with her head cocked in the stretch. It’s weird. She never does that in the mornings, and I asked Johnny why she does that. He said maybe because she’s going so fast. Eventually I’d like to stretch her out. I still think I can stretch her out. I think if we could slow her down a little bit, she’d stretch out. When I did stretch her out the 2 times there, it was the wrong time to try her long. But I think as they get older, they can do it.”

Velazquez returns to ride for the eighth straight race from post position 1. Baffert previously won the Ballerina with Marley’s Freedom in 2018.

“She’s just brilliant, just a brilliant filly,” Baffert said. “She’s fun to watch and people like watching her run. Fans love those kinds of horses and they count on them.”

Also in from the West Coast is Bo Hirsch’s 5-year-old homebred mare Ce Ce, who also shipped cross-country for her last start, the Princess Rooney (G2) July 3 at Gulfstream Park, beating runner-up and fellow Ballerina entrant Estilo Talentoso by 3 1/4 lengths, with Victor Espinoza up, for her third career graded-stakes victory and first at 7 furlongs.

“I thought the racetrack would be to her liking down there. Victor gave her a great ride and we got a wonderful setup,” trainer Michael McCarthy said. “She came out of her race in Florida in good order and has trained forwardly. This is a race we’ve had on her calendar for a while.”

Ce Ce captured back-to-back Grade 1 stakes last spring in the Beholder Mile at Santa Anita and 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. She stayed at that distance and was third in the Santa Maria (G2) and Clement Hirsch (G1) before cutting back for the Derby City Distaff, where she ran fourth. Ce Ce wrapped up 2020 finishing fifth behind Monomoy Girl in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

This year, Ce Ce opened her campaign with an optional claiming win sprinting 7 furlongs April 17 and was fourth after bobbling at the break in the Santa Maria (G2) behind As Time Goes By, who is being pointed to Saturday’s Personal Ensign.

“She’s always been good. She’s caught a couple of racetracks that weren’t to her liking, but she’s been very good this year,” McCarthy said. “She’s wonderful. She is just a treat to train. She enjoys her job and is very classy around the barn. We’re very lucky to have one like her. It’s a big thrill.”

Hall of Famer Espinoza will climb back aboard from outermost post position 7.

Godolphin homebred Lake Avenue is chasing her second career graded stakes victory and first in a Grade 1 after running second by a neck in each of her last 2 starts – the Bed o’ Roses (G3) June 4 at Belmont Park and Honorable Miss (G2) July 28 at Saratoga.

Winner of the Demoiselle (G2) to cap her juvenile campaign in December 2019, Lake Avenue had successive wins to open 2021, taking an optional claimer February 3 at Gulfstream and the 1-mile Heavenly Prize March 6 at Aqueduct.

“She had a good trip the last couple of times. She did get beat both times, but not by much,” Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. “Hopefully, she’ll put in that same type of effort again this weekend. We’re going into a very tough spot, but we want to give her an opportunity in another Grade 1. None of these Grade 1 races on Saturday are easy. They’re all tough.”

Junior Alvarado gets the assignment on Lake Avenue from post position 2. Mott won the Ballerina with Dream Supreme in 2000.

Medallion Racing, Barry Fowler, Parkland Thoroughbreds, Little Red Feather Racing, and BlackRidge Stables’ Estilo Talentoso made her graded stakes debut in February, running second behind 47/1 long shot Hibiscus Punch in the Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) at Laurel Park.

From there, she dead-heated for second in the Madison (G1) and was third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Gamine, in the Derby City Distaff before beating Lake Avenue in the Bed o’ Roses prior to her Princess Rooney run. Jose Ortiz rides from post position 6.

Lloyd Madison Farms IV homebred Sconsin won the Winning Colors (G3) sprinting 6 furlongs May 22 and most recently was second as the favorite to subsequent Honorable Miss winner Bell’s the One in the 6 1/2-furlong Roxelana June 12, both races coming at Churchill. Trained by Greg Foley, she will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. from post position 5.

Completing the field are Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc. and Stretch Run Ventures’ Casual (post 3, Ricardo Santana Jr.), third last out in the 7-furlong Shine Again August 4 at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen; and Chad Summers and J Stables’ Truth Hurts (post 4, Joel Rosario), fourth in the Honorable Miss.

The Ballerina is slated as race 7 on the 13-race card. First post is 11:35 AM Eastern.

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