This looks like another big year for Tapitsfly.
Trainer Dale Romans has shaped up the 5-year-old daughter of Tapit and has her always in the hunt. She is 2-1-2 from six starts this year, and she’s been within a length or two in every defeat except her last. She’ll take a shot at the Grade II $250,000 Ballston Spa today at Saratoga Race Course.
“She’s starting to peak,” Romans said. “As a 2-year-old, she was really good. Then she had her bad year, and she’s been good for the last two years, but right now, she’s really doing well.”
Her last time out, she was fourth by five lengths here in the Grade I Diana. Running 11⁄8 miles over good turf may have been a bit too long and soft for her, Romans said. Dialing it back to 1 1/16, where she’s 2-2-3 from seven starts, and running over firm turf could be just the ticket today.
Tapitsfly was third in her last two starts at this distance, by 11⁄2 lengths to Daisy Devine in the Grade I Jenny Wiley and by a head to Heavenly Landing in the Grade III Marshua’s River.
She’s raced against half this field. Heavenly Landing has the rail, just inside of 5-2 favorite Zagora. The Chad Brown-trained Zagora was third in the Diana, but was fifth to Tapitsfly’s third in the Jenny Wiley. Thundering Emilia was sixth in the Marshua’s River.
“I know most of them. We’ve all hooked up together, you know,” Romans said. “It just seems to be whoever is having their best day and getting their best trip will win the race. There’s several evenly matched fillies.”
One of the top runners in the older female division, though, was Winter Memories, who was recently retired after winning the Diana. Her absence is what drove Romans to enter the Ballston Spa.
“I think she was the class of this bunch of turf fillies,” he said. “So with her gone, it opens the door for a lot of things to happen.”
There’s not a great number of things that could happen early on, though. It will likely be Tapitsfly on the lead, or at least close to it. If she’s just off the lead, Graham Motion’s Summer Soiree is the likely pacesetter.
“She doesn’t have to [be on the lead]. If somebody wants to go on a suicide pace, she can sit right off of them,” Romans said. “She’s done it before. It looks like there’s a little more speed in here with Graham’s horse.”
Tapitsfly is the 7-2 third choice after 3-1 Hungry Island. Summer Soiree isn’t far behind at 9-2, and having won the Del Mar Oaks three starts back, joins Tapitsfly and
Zagora as the three Grade I winners in the field. Three others have won graded stakes.
Brown, a Mechanicville native, sends Zagora out as the first of three stakes horses on the Travers Day card.
It’s a fitting way for him to start a special day’s stakes, with a special horse. Winning the 2011 Diana, Zagora earned Brown his first Grade I victory. She has since added a trio of wins in Grade III races, all this year. She is 4-3-2 from 11 starts since coming to North America from France, 4-2-2 from the last 10 under Brown’s guidance.
“She’s had a good season already, she’s a millionaire. And particularly, this year has not been a disappointment. You’re talking about three graded-stakes victories in five starts,” Brown said. “She’s had a solid year, and I’d like to finish it up on a good note and run her at least two more times this year. It’d be a wonderful win in the Ballston Spa. It’s a great race, and it’s a solid field, and we’re excited to lead her over there.”
Bringing her into this year’s Diana off a two-month layoff, he was excited then, too. In hindsight, he said she probably needed that one race before being deemed completely ready to go.
“That could have been the last bit of fitness she was looking for in that race,” Brown said. “I felt good going into the Diana. I felt like I had her off a good series of works, I thought I had her fit enough off that lengthy layoff. But you know, as it turns out, she maybe did need that last bit of fitness, and she got it from the race. So I’m expecting her to move forward off the Diana and into the Ballston Spa.”
The field also includes Ruthenia, winner of the Grade III Violet at Monmouth on May 28, and Mykindofladyfriend, coming off a win in a $30,000 claiming race July 25.
Acting Happy, who won the 2010 Black-Eyed Susan, is entered for the main track only. She would become the 2-1 favorite if unexpected rain chases the race from the grass.
That’s unlikely to happen, but even as the favorite, and with Zagora’s works as good as they’ve been, Brown still think she’ll need one of her best races to beat these horses.
“Zagora’s one of a handful of horses who potentially could win the race, on paper,” he said. “She’s going to have to come with her ‘A’ game to win, but the way she’s training, it looks like she’s sitting on her ‘A’ race.”