SARATOGA SPRINGS — It’s a common refrain: racehorses aren’t machines.
You don’t just load them in the gate and expect them to perform like it suggests they should on paper.
Perhaps we can make an exception for Gamine.
The 2020 Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter flashed her championship form as a matter of routine at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, winning the Grade I Ballerina by 1 3/4 lengths with a front-end trip without any substantial threat from her six rivals.
She improved to 9-for-10 in her career, with the lone loss being a third in the mile-and-an-eighth Kentucky Oaks last year. Her nine victories have come by a combined 57 lengths, and the Ballerina brought her total of Grade I victories to five, which also includes the Test at Saratoga last year as a 3-year-old.
“She’s been good, and solid. The Gamine Machine, that’s her,” said trainer Bob Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes, who usually accompanies Baffert’s stakes horses to the East Coast.
Breaking from the No. 1 post under John Velazquez, Gamine established the lead right away and wasn’t forced to go faster than she wanted through the first quarter-mile (23.20 seconds) and half-mile (45.68).
Once she got clear enough, Velazquez, who has ridden Gamine in each of her last eight starts, got her five paths away from the rail down the backstretch.
“That’s the way she always does it, I just leave her alone,” Velazquez said.
“We were down in the one-hole, so you kind of have to show your hand, you’ve got to break and go,” Barnes said. “She handled the gate well and broke well, and Johnny just put her in the race, and that was it.
“Twenty-three felt pretty comfortable, yes . . . Forty-five pretty comfortable, yeah.”
The field creeped up from behind a bit as Gamine got around the turn, but she was in full command the entire way, as Lake Avenue moved up from third to win the race for second.
“Once he got her to switch leads, I wasn’t really concerned,” Barnes said. “They were moving, but we were still running.”
“At the quarter pole, I asked her for what she needed to do, and she got it done,” Velazquez said. “I didn’t there was much speed in the race. And she’s a nice horse who relaxes. If they go fast, she’s going to go fast. If they go slow, she’s going to go slow. That’s what I like about her, that even when she’s on the lead, she doesn’t run off.”
“She is one amazing horse,” owner Michael Lund Petersen said. “They don’t come around like her very often, and I treat her like that, too. You never know when it will be the last time you’re going to see them like this so you just enjoy every race like it’s going to be the last win we get. She is very special.”
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