Leading female sprinter Turbulent Descent will make her first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher in Friday's Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina at Saratoga. The other top draw in the seven-horse field, multiple Grade 1 queen It's Tricky, appears likely to scratch in favor of Sunday's Grade 1 Personal Ensign at 1 1/8 miles.
"We've entered, but we'll more than likely run on Sunday," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of It's Tricky. "We'll see how the other race shapes up, and we have until Friday to make a decision."
Turbulent Descent figures to be an odds-on favorite without It's Tricky in the line-up.
The four-year-old filly turned in one of her most impressive performances when shipping to Saratoga last year, rolling to a 3 3/4-length decision in the Grade 1 Test Stakes, and the Ballerina will be held at the same seven-furlong distance. Previously based in California with trainer Mike Puype, Turbulent Descent was sold to Coolmore connections and transferred to Pletcher following an easy 1 1/4-length victory in her 2012 bow, the June 17 Desert Stormer at Hollywood Park.
"When I went to California to look at her, Mike Puype was very, very kind and generous and shared all kinds of information about her," said Pletcher, who won last year's Ballerina with Hilda's Passion. "While I kind of knew what to expect, it's always nice to have some extra time to get to know her and get a feel for her early on. She's made the transition very smooth for us."
The Congrats filly has recorded six works in Saratoga since being transferred and will return off a 68-day freshening.
"She's the Test winner and obviously likes the track, so at this distance and on this surface, the Ballerina has been the plan since she's arrived," Pletcher said. "She's gotten to this point in very good order. She's very intelligent, she's got a good disposition … basically, she's everything she was advertised to be."
Turbulent Descent is listed as 9-5 second choice on the morning line behind 8-5 It's Tricky, who has reeled off consecutive wins in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, Grade 2 Distaff Handicap and Grade 2 Top Flight this year. The Ballerina winner will receive an automatic berth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita as part of the "Win and You're In" program.
Favored in all 11 of her career starts, Turbulent Descent drew post position 6 and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Nicole H will be seeking her third victory of 2012 and first since February in the Ballerina. The five-year-old mare won the Interborough and Correction over Aqueduct Racetrack's inner track this past winter, and, while close, has yet to find the winner's circle in five starts since, most recently finishing a half-length behind reigning champion female sprinter Musical Romance in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney in July at Calder Race Course. Saratoga's leading rider, Ramon Dominguez, will be aboard Nicole H.
Competing in a Grade 1 for the first time is Island Bound, who rallied from last to miss by a neck in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap on August 3. Victorious in the Grade 3 Winning Colors at Churchill Downs in her graded stakes debut, the five-year-old Speightstown mare has been training forwardly at Saratoga and trainer Ian Wilkes is hoping she will step up.
"We're giving her a shot at a Grade 1 -- it would be a wonderful thing for her owner, Robert Manfuso," Wilkes said. "Maybe she's not good enough to beat these. Maybe she is. We'll find out. But the good thing about her is she tries."
Julien Leparoux rides Island Bound.
The Ballerina also drew Grade 3 Bed o' Roses winner Derwin's Star; All Due Respect, most recently sixth in an overnight turf stakes at Belmont, and Belle of the Hall, fourth in the Honorable Miss.