It was only a weekday race with a $50,000 purse, but today's Ballerina Stakes revealed the identity of the best female racehorse in America.
Davona Dale has regained the form that made her the champion 3-year-old filly of last season. Her one-length victory over two accomplished rivals, Misty Galore and It's In The Air demonstrated that she will be tough to beat in the big-money championship races this fall.
Just a year ago, Davona Dale had come to Saratoga with a growing reputation as a superfilly. But she was beginning to tail off after a hard campaign, lost the Alabama Stakes to It's In The Air and went downhill unlikely that the Calumet Farm colorbearer wold ever live up to her early promise.
But today she was unequivocally brillant.
Only four horses went to the post for the seven-furlong Ballerina, but it was the strongest field of fillies assembled in a race this year. It's In The Air, Misty Galore and Jedina all showed speed from the gate, and battled three abreast down the backstretch. Davona Dale, who has never been a quick starter, trailed as expected.
But jockey Jorge Velasquez chose tomake an early (and possibly premature) move, and rushed into contention on the outside. "I was really surprised to see her come to us then," It's In The Air's jockey Darrel McHargue said, expressing the view of many of the 20,007 spectators here.
The move put Davona Dale in the worst of positions, forcing her to race four horses wide all the way around the turn on a track where losing ground has recently meant losing the race.
Davona Dale managed to stay abreast of her rivals around the turn and inched ahead in midstretch. Misty Galore is one of the grittiest competitors of her sex, but Davona Dale wore her down and pulled away. She covered the seven-eighths of a mile in 1:22 1/5.
"It gives me a geat deal of satisfaction to have her come back this good." said trainer John Veitch, who had been justly criticized for his handling of the filly last year. Davona Dale had raced all over the country, then won New York's triple crown series for fillies by an aggregate margin of 20 lengths. When Davona Dale's form was clearly deteriorating, the trainer persisted in going to the well, two or three times too often. But now he has a fresh horse at the time of year when championships are decided.
The only disappointment in the Ballerina was the absence of Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk. Trainer LeRoy Jolly had given indications that he would run her in this race as a prep for a confrontation with colts in the Travers Stakes, but he announced this week that Genuine Risk would not run in any Saratoga stakes at all. fall, where whe will be seeing a lot of Davona Dale.