Dance to Bristol took a different route, but she still prevailed in a wild finish Monday at Saratoga Race Course.
Caught between horses with less than a furlong to go, the 4-year-old filly squeezed ahead and then clicked into another gear to capture the 22nd running of the Grade II $200,000 Honorable Miss by a neck over Classic Point before a crowd of 10,539.
It was the sixth straight victory at four different tracks for the daughter of Speightstown. Dance to Bristol, ridden by Xavier Perez, now has six wins and a second in seven starts this year. For her
career, she has nine wins and seven seconds in 17 races. It was also her first victory here.
Pretty impressive stuff.
But this six-furlong test didn’t give trainer Ollie L. Figgins III the kind of trip he had grown accustomed to, as Munnings Sister took the early lead and was soon replaced by Classic Point, who clocked a 22.0 over the first quarter.
Classic Point, with Alex Solis up, still had the lead after the next quarter (44.98) over Burban, and Dance to Bristol was nowhere near the lead until the stretch run.
Dance to Bristol, who started slowly and was still fifth at the halfway mark, was two to three wide in mid pack, and she had to steady herself very briefly. She moved into a path vacated by Livi Makenzie along the rail and rallied over the final furlong to barely beat Classic Point.
Dance to Bristol paid $3.70, $2.90 and $2.40.
Munning Sister, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, finished third.
“That wasn’t the classiest trip she ever had. She’s always had a perfect trip before,” said Figgins. “I’m not sure what was going on there early in the race. I think [Perez] had to wait a little longer than he wanted to, and I think he did check a little over by the three-eighths pole, but once it opened up, she came through pretty good.
“This is the toughest field she’s run against. I was having my doubts, because these guys don’t give you nothing. They don’t give you a break here,” said Figgins, when asked how it felt to beat noted giant killer H. Allen Jerkens, who trains Classic Point.
In her last five races, Dance to Bristol won by a total of 20 lengths.
“She’s a fighter,” said Figgins. “I never doubted her effort. She’s a special horse.”
Figgins said he’s considering the Ballerina on Aug. 23 for her next start.
“The biggest thing is how she comes out of the race. We’ll see how she is in the next day or two, next week. The Ballerina is absolutely where we’d like to be.”
The race was loaded with horses on winning streaks, and most of the fillies and mares in the field had won two or more.
But Dance to Bristol showed her class.
“We got a perfect break, and I tried to put her right behind horses close,” said Perez. “I didn’t want to get too far back. At the three-eighths, I got kind of bumped around by the one [Livi Makenzie], and I got worried at that point because I was kind of boxed in. But when we turned for home and she switched leads, I saw the horses open up a little bit, and I sent her through a real nice seam. She just split the horses and kept going.”
“She just gave me everything she had. We’re going up the ladder. I think we’re going to go far with her.”
Jerkens was also pleased with his horse’s effort.
“Well, we were certainly happy with the way she ran. I was surprised that she made the lead; I know they were fast fillies. The winner won a lot of races. Tough to get beat, but happy that your horse improved, and it improved her value a lot for when she goes to breed. Maybe this means she’s one of the pros.
“We thought she was good before she ever ran. We got Rosie [Napravnik] to ride her in her first race. She worked her and was happy with her. She was shocked when she ran. I don’t understand it, but anyhow, I like to be pleasantly surprised because you get a lot of other surprises.”