SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Cicero Farms, LLC’s Marley’s Freedom made an impressive four-wide bid at the top of the stretch before sweeping away convincingly in the final furlong to take Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga.
The Ballerina is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Marley’s Freedom receiving an automatic berth in the Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3.
Breaking well from post 7 as the 9/5 favorite under Mike Smith, Marley’s Freedom soon settled in mid-pack while Finley’sluckycharm set opening splits of :23.11 and :45.44 for the opening 1/2-mile. Running three-wide into the far turn, Marley’s Freedom ranged up along the outside of Finley’sluckycharm and Lewis Bay, while Ivy Bell shot through an opening along the rail. The imposing wall of horses didn’t last long, as Marley’s Freedom soon took command and found room to cross over in mid-stretch. Continuing to run on strongly under a brisk hand ride, the Bob Baffert trainee crossed in first without ever being asked for her best in a final time of 1:21.39 for the 7-furlong main track sprint.
“Unbelievable race today,” Baffert said. “When I saw her at the top of the stretch on the outside, I felt pretty good. She had an extra gear, that’s how she works. She and Abel (Tasman, winner of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes one race prior) have been working unbelievably. I didn’t think she would win by that far.”
Well behind her, Still There made a late bid to take second over Lewis Bay, while Union Strike was able to get up in the final jumps to take fourth by a slim margin over Ivy Bell. Behind them, Tequilita crossed ahead of a spent Finley’sluckycharm and a non-threatening Cairenn to complete the order of finish. Highway Star was scratched after spiking a fever on race day.
Marley’s Freedom’s win was fourth straight and third in a graded event, following scores in the Grade 3 Desert Stormer Stakes at Santa Anita and the Grade 2 Great Lady M Stakes at Los Alamitos. The 4-year-old daughter of Blame increased her record to 12-6-2-0 with earnings of $628,435. The Ballerina was her third race since being transferred to Baffert’s barn from the care of trainer Robert Hess, Jr.
“When I got her, she was in great shape,” said Baffert. “She just came off a very big impressive win and I really can’t take a lot of credit for that. She came to me in great shape and running really well, and I just kept her in that form.”
Marley’s Freedom returned $5.80 to win, $4.30 to place, and $2.90 to show. Still There brought back $7.40 to place and $5 to show, while Lewis Bay paid $3 to show.