The Todd Pletcher trained Turbulent Descent looks like the one to beat in Friday’s featured race at Saratoga, the $500,000 Ballerina (G1) for fillies and mares going seven furlongs on the main track.
The Grade 1 fixture kicks off a great weekend of betting action that includes Travers Day on Saturday that features four graded stakes including the marquee event of the Spa meeting.
A field of eleven will line up in the Mid Summer Derby, the $1 million Travers (G1), which has lost some of its star power with recent defections including Paynter and Hansen, but the race still looks like a wide open betting affair.
There are 13 races on the Travers Day card. Supporting the marquee race of the meeting is the $500,000 King’s Bishop (G1), $500,000 Test (G1), and the $250,000 Ballston Spa (G2).
All four stakes will be televised live on NBC as part of a two hour telecast that gets underway at 4:00 ET.
On Friday, Turbulent Descent is going to be tough to beat in the Ballerina as the 9-5 second choice on the morning line.
The morning line favorite is It’s Tricky (8-5), who has won three in a row including taking the Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park in her last outing on May 28.
However, her trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has indicated that the filly will scratch out of the race in favor of Sunday’s $600,000 Personal Ensign (G1).
“We’ve entered, but we’ll more than likely run on Sunday,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll see how the other race shapes up, and we have until Friday to make a decision.”
If she scratches as expected, that will leave a field of six with Turbulent Descent likely to go off as the short priced favorite as she makes her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The filly won the Test (G1) over the Spa main track here last summer at today’s seven furlong distance and will be making her second start since returning off a 5 ½ month layoff.
Princes Rooney (G1) runner up Nicole H (4-1) and Bed o’ Roses (G3) winner Derwin’s Star (5-1) appear the most likely to give the favorite a run for her money.
Completing the field is Honorable Miss (G2) runner up Island Bound (10-1), the Rick Dutrow trained All Due Respect (20-1) who has lost her last five races, and Honorable Miss fourth place finisher Belle of the Hall (15-1).
Michael Dempsey provides his selections for Saratoga each racing day. Mike’s Best Plays Report is available each weekend, with his strongest plays and selections including the top stakes races.
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Let’s head out to Saratoga for Friday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 9 The Ballerina (G1) Post time 5:30 ET
6 Turbulent Descent 9-5
5 Nicole H 4-1
7 Derwin’s Star 5-1
1 Island Bound 10-1
Turbulent Descent makes his first start for the Todd Pletcher barn after the Coolmore kids purchased the brilliant filly privately from the Blinkers On Racing Stable. In her last start the filly came off a 5 ½ month layoff to win the Desert Stormer at Betfair Hollywood Park to run her record over synthetic surfaces to a perfect 5 for 5. The fourth place finisher in that race was Switch, who came back to win the A Gleam Handicap (G2) in her next start on July 14. While she has done much of her best running on the fake stuff, she won the Test (G1) here at the Spa last summer with what was then a career top speed figure. She has worked smartly since arriving in New York for a barn that is 30% winners with newcomers to the barn.
Nicole H. made a good late rally and came up just a half-length shy of getting to Musical Romance in the Princess Rooney (G1) last out at Calder going six furlongs. The mare has now lost five in a row since taking back to back stakes on the inner track at the Big A to start off the year, but she shows up just about every outing, landing in the exacta in 16 of her 23 career starts. She has enough zip she should be in the mix early and there really is not a confirmed frontrunner in this field.
Derwin’s Star tracked the early pace from the rail and tired to finish seventh last out in the Molly Pitcher (G2) going two turns at Monmouth Park. She is better going one turn and earned a career top two back winning the Bed o’ Roses (G3) at Belmont Park going seven furlongs. Note Dominguez was on her for that victory but the meet’s top jock lands on our second choice in here. The cut back in distance should suit this gal and she will need to run a near career top to be in the mix here.
WIN: Turbulent Descent to win at 7-5 or better.
EXACTA: 5,6 / 5,6,7
TRIFECTA: no play