The Ballston Handicap – Grade II
SAR Race #5 1 1/16m InTurf Graded Stake
Purse $400.000 For Fillies And Mares Three Years Old And Upward.
1 Heartland, trained by TwinTowersRacing
This four year old was racking up the wins early in the season, taking the Grade Three Marshuas River stakes, then the Grade Two Buena Vista and finally the Grade One Wiley. Her first defeat of the year came in the Grade One Just A Game, but she still ran well to be fourth after running hard on the pace early. All of those wins, however, were in four and up races, and when she faced the three’s last time out in the Grade One Diana, she ran very flat to come in eleventh. She is a class act, and as such, has to carry joint top weight, but if she can get onto the pace from this draw she won’t be an easy nut to crack. Having said that, top weight is usually a good reason to avoid heavy investments.
2 Skeleton Spy, trained by Estero Farms
This five year old gets a lot of weight from the two principals and is well in against the three year olds, so is an interesting entry. A stakes winner last year, she started off with two good runs when fourth in the Santa Ana Stakes and then third in the ET Mint Julep Stakes, but was then sold for just $100.000 to her current owner. In her only start from her new barn, she won a competitive open allowance at DMR, and whilst her works are a little shy of the best of these, I do like an older horse in a handicap with a low weight. I think she may be the dark horse in a tricky race.
3 Love In The Mist, trained by Mb Stables
She was picking up cheap allowances before a good run in the Grade Two Fleur De Lis Handicap saw her finish third, but she was then taken back to the cheap seats for a very easy win in a CT open Allowance. She gets weight from the three year olds and a ton off of the best fillies in the race, so must be a very lively chance for the champion trainer. A switch back to turf is the only question, but that doesn’t seem to matter at HRP as long as they can run the times, and her work times are suggesting she will be very competitive.
4 Ladies Night, trained by Oval Express farms
I wouldn’t normally get excited about a three year old on levels with a five year old and giving weight to a four year old, but none of that seems to matter as long as she works and runs similar times to the older horses. She has run against some good fillies in the lead up to this, most notably when third in the Lake George last time out, but common sense should prevail here, and she shouldn’t be able to win.
5 Nebraska Aq, trained by Hawaiian Shirt Guy
She has changed hands more than she has run recently and races under her fourth new owner of the season today. Her efforts so far for the trainer have been fairly encouraging, with a good second in the Penny Memorial Handicap last time, but she looks just a shade behind them on form, even if her works times are unsurprisingly similar to everything else.
6 Tropics, trained by Smokey Stover
On her last two efforts, she should win this race even though she carries joint top weight and has to give a fair bit to most of the runners. A brilliant winner of the Grade One Just A Game, she then closed hard to be a close fourth in the Diana last time. Those efforts put her three lengths clear of Heartland and are far better than her rivals. Her works are, however, yes, you guessed it, just the same as everything else, so it is her class that will win this race today, should she be able to overcome the draw and the handicap.
7 Atlanta, trained by Chili King Stables
A very consistent three year old, she was beaten twice at the free track early in the year, but has put together two solid wins in pay races since. Clearly a filly with plenty of upside, she will need to overcome the horror of the wide draw and work times that are a little off some of the others. Bottom weight certainly helps though, and she is no easy choice.
The best horse in the race is Tropics, but that isn’t always the reason a horse can win. The three year olds are OK, but not outstanding, but do get more than weight for age so will be dangerous as always, and I rather like the chances of the two lightweights, Love In The Mist and Skeleton Spy.