August 13, 2022

By the Moon holds off Highway Star in Ballerina

By the Moon's second Grade 1 -- which came under Rajiv Maragh in the Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday, August 26, 2017 -- was an emotional one for her connections (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography

by TERESA GENARO

Earlier this year, trainer Michelle Nevin lost one of her big horses: Paulassilverlining was privately sold by breeder/owner Vincent Scuderi to Juddmonte, who transferred the five-year-old mare to Chad Brown. It’s part of the business, but that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant, especially when that horse goes on to win three Grade 1 races.

But Nevin still had a barn full of horses, including By the Moon, who at two had won 2014 Frizette (G1) at Belmont Park, giving Nevin her first Grade 1 win.

Three years later, the same horse brought Nevin her second Grade 1, winning the Ballerina on Saturday at Saratoga by a head, defeating six rivals, including Paulassilverlining.

The win was also the first Grade 1 for Rajiv Maragh since returning this past winter from an injury that threatened his career.

Breaking from post four, By the Moon and Maragh maintained a short but unchallenged lead through most of the seven furlongs. After opening up a bit on the field, the Indian Charlie filly had to withstand a late charge from Highway Star, but held on to get the wine.

“My God, did he give her a great ride,” Nevin said. “This was a wide-open race with some really good fillies, and I think tactics and an excellent ride won the race.”

“The race kind of looked like there wasn’t a true clear-cut speed horse,” Maragh said. “My filly has been better off stalking a horse in the past but we thought that if we were going to get an easy lead we shouldn’t give that up. No one really wanted to get in the lead so we tried to take advantage of that.”

The Ballerina is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Del Mar this fall, and while November is a long way off, a Breeders’ Cup mount would mark a significant milestone in Maragh’s comeback.

“Michelle has given me some good opportunities,” Maragh said. “Riding pretty much her best horse shows that she’s confident in me riding for her. I’ve seen this filly run so many times and I’ve ridden against her; I’ve always held her in such high regard, and I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to ride her.”

A homebred for Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable, By the Moon is out of By the Light, by Malibu Moon. In 18 races, she’s finished off the board only four times and earned more than $1.5 million.

Nevin has about 10 horses for Siegel, who is based in California. She hasn’t at the race on Saturday, but Nevin spoke with her immediately after the race.

“Between her crying and my crying, we didn’t get too many words out,” the trainer said.

In six starts at Saratoga, By the Moon has a record of 2-2-2.

Maragh has seen limited action at Saratoga this summer, with four wins from 70 mounts.

“I have to say,” he reflected, “being out for such a long time and with my career in jeopardy at points, to be able to come back and win a race is amazing, but to win a Grade 1 at Saratoga — I mean, it’s the top of the top.”