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Hilda's Passion romps in Ballerina

BALLERINA STAKES | PURSE: $250,000 | GRADE: 1 | 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | 7 FURLONGS

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Hilda's Passion bounced back from her non-effort in her last race in a big way Saturday, taking command soon after the gates opened under Javier Castellano and rolling to a 9 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1, $250,000 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga.

Tar Heel Mom, who stumbled at the start, finished second by a neck over Tamarind Hall. She was followed in the order of finish by Bronx City Girl, Devil by Design, and Sassy Image, the 7-5 favorite who basically bolted after breaking poorly.

The win was the fourth from six starts this year for Hilda's Passion, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Canadian Frontier owned by Starlight Racing and Charles Glasscock. It was Hilda's Passion's first Grade 1 stakes victory, and it earned her an automatic berth – with all entry fees paid – into the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

When Tar Heel Mom stumbled under Alex Solis, it enabled Hilda's Passion to open up a one-length advantage through a quarter in 22.83 seconds, and from there the race was basically over.

"She does that well within her range," trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Hilda's Passion ran a half-mile in 45.83, six furlongs in 1:09.19, and she covered seven furlongs in 1:22.06. She returned $7.10 as the second choice.

The win helped erase the memory of Hilda's Passion's sixth-place finish as the 1-4 favorite in the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses Handicap at Belmont on July 3.

"The only thing I can come up with is the track; it was a very, very odd track that day," Pletcher said. "For her not to even make the lead, you knew she wasn't liking it. We couldn't find any real reason, we said the Ballerina was what we wanted, we focused on that, and she showed today when she's on her `A' game she's as good as there is.''

After stumbling at the start, Tar Heel Mom quickly moved into second and chased Hilda's Passion all the way around the track, but was no match.

"I'm very impressed that she recuperated and ran this kind of race," Solis said. "She lost her footing, but she's a warrior. She kept trying."

Trainer Dale Romans had said that Sassy Image was training as well as any horse he ever had for any race. But after she leapt in the air at the start, she drifted toward the outside fence and was a handful for jockey Robby Albarado.

"He said she wanted to run to the outside fence all the way around there," Romans said. "She's never done anything like that before. Hopefully, she's okay."