No cutting in.
Dance to Bristol has the perfect dancing partner in Xavier Perez, and the pair proved it again Friday with their seventh win in seven races together, winning the seven-furlong Grade I $500,000 Ballerina at Saratoga Race Course.
Still, jockey Rafael Bejarano and Book Review tried to butt in with a stretch run that came up just a bob short. Dance to Bristol held them off by a head to claim her first Grade I victory.
“When I started riding her, she took off running and when she felt the horse coming near her, she just kept going,” Perez said. “She never let that horse by her.”
Bejarano was struck by the determination of Dance to Bristol.
“I put my horse into position and followed the winner the whole race,” he said. “I had an opportunity to pass her in the stretch, but the other horse never quit.”
Before the Ballerina took center stage at Saratoga on Friday, there was a bit of musical chairs being played. At the end of the seventh race, two before the feature, jockey Joel Rosario lost his seat aboard Casual Elegance after the wire. He was transported to the hospital for X-rays on his left foot.
Rosario reportedly suffered a broken bone in his left foot, and will see a doctor this morning to determine if he can take his mounts today.
He also was scheduled to ride Judy the Beauty in the Ballerina. Judy the Beauty had not finished worse than second in her 10 career starts. Jose Lezcano inherited the mount, but was not in the saddle long, as Judy the Beauty flipped back onto her rear end and was a late scratch, sending Lezcano to the ground. He was taken off on a stretcher. Lezcano is scheduled to ride Laughing in the Ballston Spa and Majestic Hussar in the King's Bishop.
Once the field was settled and the gates opened for the Ballerina, Fantasy of Flight went quickly to the lead, but she just as quickly let Classic Point move inside to set the pace. Fantasy of Flight ran along outside of Classic Point, and Glorious View was one more path out to round out the lead pack.
Biding her time, Dance to Bristol was waiting two lengths behind Glorious View. She broke from the rail and found room to settle into the race with no real company behind the leaders.
“She got a sharp break, and I asked her to settle, and she did it,” Perez said. “I put her right behind the leaders, and she just dropped the bit and got comfortable. When I asked her at the five-sixteenths to move, she responded pretty good and gave me a hundred percent and just kept going. When she felt that horse, Book Review, coming on the outside, she just kept digging in.”
“I was elated,” winning trainer Ollie Figgins said of the trip he got from Perez. “We were in the split there, between the first two packs. It was ideal.”
Figgins said he thinks Dance to Bristol was aided by Book Review's rally coming in shoulder-to-shoulder fashion instead of a wide rally.
“Book Review had dead aim on her, you know what I mean, and inside the eighth pole, and once she saw her coming, she just wouldn't let her by,” he said. “My thought was, we could see what kind of heart my horse has. Luckily, she came running close to us, where my filly could see her, and I think that helped.”
Villanesca finished third, another 11⁄2 lengths behind Book Review, edging Street Girl by a nose.
Figgins admitted Thursday to the mix of pride and anxiety that comes with such a winning streak, but he said Dance to Bristol's first foray into Grade I company alleviated some of the pressure as horses like Book Review and Judy the Beauty soaked up some of the attention that is sometimes focused more intensely on his filly.
“Today was not so bad, because I don't think anybody really liked her,” Figgins said. “I think they liked her, but I thought she still had something to prove, and that helped a little.
“It's very special. The filly, she's done everything right, nothing wrong. She's a good horse, and I hope the world knows that now.”
It was the second graded win of the meet for Dance to Bristol, who won the Grade II Honorable Miss on July 29.
Dance to Bristol will have to wait for a decision on her next target. She has run each of the last nine months, but if she's fit, she could conceivably come right back to look for her eighth consecutive win.
“We'll just get her back to the barn, see how she is and go from there,” Figgins said. “She's a very easy filly to tell. She lets you know how she is. If she bounces out of the race well like she did this time, we may look for something.”
Though Figgins was non-committal when asked about the possibility of the Breeders' Cup, Perez could not hide how hopeful he is that he will be riding Dance to Bristol in November at Santa Anita.
“She's something else; she's amazing,” Perez said. “She's the best horse I ever rode in my whole career. I think it's going to be the one that's going to take me to the Breeders' Cup.”
FIRST OF THE MEET
Saratoga Central Catholic graduate Terri Pompay won her first race of the meet in the sixth when Herd Mentality carried Javier Castellano to the wire.
It was Castellano's third straight win on the card. He kept Herd Mentality within a couple lengths of pacesetter Spintastic, then took the lead around the eighth pole and went on to win by 1 1⁄4 lengths. The horse was then claimed by trainer Steve Asmussen for $20,000.
In the first race, jockey John Velazquez rode Havana to a win in a 5 1⁄2-furlong dirt maiden race in 1:02.64. It was just 0.13 shy of the track record, set in 2010 by Fastus Cactus. He was bought by the Coolmore connections bought the Dunkirk colt Barretts March sale for $575,000.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said the Grade I Champagne at Belmont “might make sense” for his next start.
UPSET IN RETURN
The Lumber Guy went off at 4-5 in his return to racing in The Chowder's First in the second race, but 12-1 Palace rallied on the outside to win the 6 1⁄2-furlong contest. The Lumber Guy last raced Feb. 23 in the Grade II San Carlos at Santa Anita.
In Friday's race, N.F.'s Destiny set a fast pace with The Lumber Guy just off his back hip, going a quarter mile in 21.76 and a half in 44.52. The Lumber Guy took the lead at the three-eighths pole, but Palace had more in the tank for the final furlong, and won by three lengths.