Reigning Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) champion Ce Ce has already earned a free return ticket for her title defense at Keeneland, and she’ll try to pick up another one in Sunday’s $500,000 “Win and You’re In” Ballerina H. (G1) at Saratoga.
Ballerina H. (G1) – Race 9 (5:39 p.m. ET)
The Michael McCarthy mare comes off a resounding repeat victory in the “Win and You’re In” Princess Rooney (G2) at Gulfstream Park, nearly doubling her margin to 6 1/2 lengths. Last summer, Ce Ce posted a 3 1/4-length score in the Princess Rooney en route to Saratoga, where she placed third in the Ballerina. It would be facile to extrapolate that she’ll offer similar improvement here, but the six-year-old arrives in peak form. The 125-pound highweight will need room, though, from her rail draw to deliver her potent rally with Victor Espinoza.
Plenty of pace is on tap courtesy of Bella Sofia, last year’s Test (G1) heroine at this track and seven-furlong trip, and multiple Grade 3 victress Lady Rocket. Bella Sofia, fourth to Ce Ce in the Breeders’ Cup, captured her first two outings of 2022 in the Vagrancy (G3) and Bed o’ Roses (G2). But she retreated to third as the 7-10 favorite in the July 27 Honorable Miss (G2) at the Spa, and hopes to turn the page here for Rudy Rodriguez. Lady Rocket, second to Bella Sofia in last fall’s Gallant Bloom (G2), has reached a new level since. The Brad Cox filly crushed the Go For Wand (G3) by nine lengths, and added another laurel in the June 25 Chicago (G3) at Churchill Downs. The speedsters are drawn next door, Lady Rocket in post 4 and Bella Sofia to her outside.
Trainer Bill Mott’s trio would relish the prospect of a pace war. Juddmonte’s Obligatory won three straight graded stakes, capped by a last-to-first flourish in the Derby City Distaff (G1) on Derby Day, before coming up a half-length shy in the Bed o’ Roses. Bella Sofia was the controlling speed that day. Godolphin’s Caramel Swirl brings a two-race winning streak into her Grade 1 debut, last fall’s Raven Run (G2) and a May 20 allowance at Belmont. Note that she had dominated an entry-level allowance during the 2021 Saratoga meet. Travel Column, who switched to Mott for 2022, resurfaced from a year-long layoff to take a seven-furlong Churchill allowance June 29. Proven as a router on the 2021 Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail, she beat Clairiere in the Golden Rod (G2) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).
Goodnight Olive jumps straight to the top level for Chad Brown. The daughter of Ghostzapper and multiple Grade 3 vixen Salty Strike has won four straight since a runner-up effort on debut, and her 101 Brisnet Speed rating in her latest allowance at the Spa suggests she can be competitive. Goodnight Olive totes the lightest impost at 118 pounds, receiving seven from Ce Ce and five from Bella Sofia and Obligatory.
In the $135,000 Better Talk Now S. one race earlier on the card, Brown is represented by Napoleonic War. Runner-up in the Pennine Ridge (G2) two back, the War Front colt shortens up to a mile after a double-digit loss in the Belmont Derby (G1). His main rival is Todd Pletcher’s Wit, a fine second in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) in his first turf test.