BALLARINA STAKES | PURSE: $500,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 1 | 7 FURLONGS
Artemis Agrotera polished off pacesetter La Verdad midstretch and sprinted clear to an overpowering victory in the $500,000 Ballerina Stakes Aug. 23 at Saratoga Race Course.
Rajiv Maragh guided Chester and Mary Broman's strapping 3-year-old New York-bred daughter of Roman Ruler to a 6 ½-length win for trainer Mike Hushion.
Coming out of a 10 ¼-length demolishing of allowance/optional claiming foes July 23, Artemis Agrotera improved to 3-for-3 at the Spa. The bay filly won the second Grade 1 race of her career following the Frizette Stakes last year at Belmont Park.
Artemis Agrotera was clocked in 1:21.89 for seven furlongs over a fast track, with favored My Miss Aurelia second and Willet third. Eight fillies and mares contested this year's Ballerina.
The Ballerina victory guarantees Artemis Agrotera a starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Park this fall as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win & You're In" series.
"This filly has always acted like a special filly every day I've had her," said Hushion after his first Ballerina victory. "So I was more confused by the couple of times she didn't run well and never surprised when she shows up big.
"To win a Grade 1 at Saratoga, it doesn't get any better than that," he added.
Breaking from the rail, Artemis Agrotera bumped at the start with Kipling's Joy and was angled to the outside of pacesetter La Verdad while racing second through easy opening quarter-mile fractions of :23.14 seconds and :45.78 seconds. Better Lucky slipped coming out the gate and trailed as My Miss Aurelia, the slight 3-1 choice, settled near the rear of the pack after a slow start.
La Verdad retained a one-length advantage to the turn when Artemis Agrotera inched closer and applied pressure rounding the turn. The eventual winner was in a full drive as they hit the homestretch and opened up a clear advantage approaching the furlong mark. She drew off from there while geared down by Maragh late.
"She was pretty dominant today and she was much the best," said Maragh, who previously won the Ballerina in 2009 with Music Note.
"I was gearing down inside the sixteenth pole because she had the race wrapped up and was powering away," Maragh added. "I don't think I squeezed the lemon dry. I think she has more to give."
My Miss Auerelia, looking to reclaim the championship form she displayed at 2, was second best but never presented a challenge to Artemis Agrotera while 1 ¼ lengths clear of Willet, ridden by Joel Rosario. New York-breds accounted for two of the top three finishers.
"She broke slowly from the gate and I waited a little for her to get settled," jockey John Velazquez said of My Miss Aurelia. "She had a little bit of a good run but the other horses weren't slowing down."
Better Lucky was fourth, followed by La Verdad, Kipling's Joy, Geeky Gorgeous, and Hot Stones.
Bred by her owners out of the multiple graded stakes-placed A.P. Indy mare Indy Glory, Artemis Agrotera collected $300,000 for the Ballerina victory, extending her bankroll to $763,800 with four victories from six lifetime starts. One of those losses came in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, when she was fifth while well-backed.
That defeat won't deter her connections from returning to Santa Anita.
"I heard that Mr. Broman told the last interviewer we were going. It sounds good to me," Hushion said.
Getting a four-pound weight break while toting 115, Artemis Agrotera paid $10.60, $5.80, and $4 as the third choice. My Miss Aurelia returned $4.80 and $3.50, and was part of a $63.50 exacta. Willet paid $3.40 to show.
Voodoo Tales scratched.