Gene Kelly would’ve been proud.
On a day when there was no shortage of puddles or umbrellas at Saratoga Race Course, Music Note splashed her way to a length victory in the Grade I Ballerina on Saturday, beating one champion and another championship contender.
Just over a year after thrilling the crowd by pushing Proud Spell to the limit in the Alabama, Godolphin Stable’s 4-year-old filly used a beautiful stalking trip to pull away from Indian Blessing, the 2008 Eclipse Award winner in the filly and mare sprint division, by 51⁄4 lengths in just her second start of the year.
A finalist herself for the 3-year-old filly Eclipse — Proud Spell won it — Music Note is lightly raced, but suddenly looks like a very dangerous player in the national picture.
“She ran a big race, and we’re really happy with her,” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said. “She’s really healthy at exactly this time. She’s back to the form that she was last year.”
The race shaped up to be an intriguing first-ever matchup between Indian Blessing and Informed Decision, another 4-year-old who had won five straight and three this year, including two Grade I’s.
Instead, it turned into a waltz through the wet for Music Note.
Indian Blessing, with her head dipped low, was docile as a pony in the paddock as trainer Tonja Terranova, who oversees Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s New York horses, tugged on her ears and a groom playfully flicked the end of a lead shank against her cheek.
Out on the track, the field of six was reduced to five when long shot Modification was scratched a minute to post, and Indian Blessing inherited a lead that jockey John Velazquez said he really didn’t want.
Breaking from the rail, Music Note tucked in a few lengths off the pace and found a gap inside, pulling jockey Rajiv Maragh to a short lead entering the turn.
Indian Blessing responded on the outside, getting a head in front heading to the quarter pole, but Music Note was just getting started and regained command coming off the turn.
She powered home in 1:22.10 for seven furlongs.
“It was very fortunate that she took me there,” Maragh said of the move into the turn. “She got me there on her own will. I think it was to our advantage at that point, where we weren’t eight or nine lengths out of it.
“I have been on her a couple of times in the morning, and I became familiar with her. When I saw Indian Blessing come alongside of us at the top of the stretch, my filly started sprinting away.”
“She’s a tough filly, she always tries hard,” bin Suroor said. “I talked to the jockey about how fast they were going to go. Rajiv gave her a brilliant ride. She handled the surface, and she showed a good turn of foot. The plan now, maybe we’ll find a race for her in New York.
“The break we gave her last year, it took her some time to come back. But from the last race, she improved and really looked more healthy.”
Like Music Note, Indian Blessing is lightly raced this year, after a grueling trip to Dubai, where she was a gutsy second against the boys in the Golden Shaheen in March.
“The other horse just ran better than her,” Velazquez said. “I think she’s just coming back, and she’s getting better now.”
Informed Decision got up for third, a length behind Indian Blessing.
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