Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Centre Court hopes to recapture best form in G2 Ballston Spa

The New York Racing Association, Inc.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Contact: Sean Morris


Centre Court hopes to recapture best form in G2 Ballston Spa


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Grade 1 winner Centre Court will look to get her career back on track in the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa for older fillies and mares on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.


The 1 1/16-mile grass affair was carded as the ninth race on a 14-race program that features the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers, the centerpiece of the Saratoga meet.

Centre Court, trained by Rusty Arnold for G. Watts Humphrey, Jr., first rose to prominence as a 3-year-old in early 2012, when she ran 1 1/16 miles over the Gulfstream Park turf in a blazing 1:39.73 while she was still a maiden. Three starts later, the daughter of Smart Strike won the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill Downs, and followed that performance with a victory in the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga.


After second-place finishes in the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga and the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, Centre Court closed out her sophomore season with a win in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill. In total, the Rusty Arnold trainee finished the year with a sterling record of 3-2-0 in five graded stakes attempts.


Centre Court continued to build on her superlative turf record at 4 when she took the Grade 2 Honey Fox at Gulfstream in her 2013 debut, and then captured the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in her next start. After her breakthrough victory, however, the consistent turfer failed to hit the board for the remainder of the year, finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game, fifth in the Grade 1 Diana, and eighth in the Ballston Spa.


To kick off 2014, Centre Court again won the Honey Fox, serving notice that she was back to her old self. Trying to replicate the beginning of her 4-year-old campaign, the dark bay or brown mare made her next start in the Jenny Wiley but faded to fifth after taking the lead in the stretch, though she was beaten by less than a length. In her latest start, the Humphrey color-bearer finished fifth in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile in May at Churchill Downs.


"She had a little trouble at the start [of the Distaff Turf Mile], but she blew a shoe when that happened," said Arnold. "She ran with one shoe off and bore out most of the way, so it was disappointing, but I feel we have an excuse. We had to give her some time to get it all fixed up, and she's in good shape now. It's a big undertaking; there's some nice fillies [in the Ballston Spa], but we're ready and looking forward to a nice fall campaign with her."


Centre Court enters the Ballston Spa off a layoff of more than three months - something that was not by design, according to Arnold.


"We're coming into the race off a little layoff," said the trainer. "There wasn't a chance to run her; she's been ready for a few weeks, but there were no opportunities. She seems to be in good shape, though."


Julien Leparoux will be aboard Centre Court, 5-1 on the morning line, and the pair will leave from post 2.


The 2-1 favorite on the morning line, Filimbi, will tackle graded stakes company for the first time on Saturday. The Mizzen Mast filly, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott for Juddmonte Farms, began her career in France, where she won three of seven starts. Since coming stateside as a 4-year-old, Filimbi has progressed in each start. She finished second in her 2014 debut at Keeneland, and then won an optional claimer at Belmont by a half-length. In her latest outing, the gray or roan filly took the De La Rose by 1 ¾ lengths in August at Saratoga and earned a gaudy 101 Beyer Speed Figure.


Filimbi will break from the outermost post seven with Joel Rosario in the irons.


The runner-up in the De La Rose and Grade 1 winner, Dayatthespa, is possible for the Ballston Spa for trainer Chad Brown. The 5-year-old mare has compiled a record of 8-4-0 from 15 starts, all on turf, and has earned $858,892 in her career. The daughter of City Zip was coming off an eight-month layoff in the De La Rose, and was beaten 1 ¾ lengths after dueling through swift fractions.


"I think she got a lot of her last race," said Brown. "The fractions were a little strong, especially coming off a layoff, but we'll be much fitter this time around. She came out of the race well and has been training great."


Dayatthespa may opt to run in the Yaddo for New York-breds on Sunday at Saratoga, according to Brown, who will assess both fields before making a decision.


Javier Castellano has the mount on Dayatthespa, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, and the duo will break from post 5.


The versatile Strathnaver will go out for trainer Graham Motion and owner Andrew Stone on Saturday. Previously trained by Edward Dunlop and raced in Great Britain, Strathnaver got her first taste of American racing in early 2013, and made a good first impression as a turf marathoner by capturing the Grade 3, 1 ½-mile Bewitch in her second stateside start. Three races later, the daughter of Oasis Dream proved she could be effective at middle distances, too, taking the 1 1/16-mile Lady Baltimore on September 16 at Laurel Park.


Strathnaver's affinity for middle distances was reaffirmed this year in the Grade 1, one-mile Longines Just a Game, which she missed winning by a nose after closing into a quick final quarter-mile at 17-1. In her latest outing, the bay mare took a step back, finishing sixth at 5-1 in the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile TVG Diana at Saratoga.


"I was a little disappointed [in her Diana] but more frustrated," said Motion. "She had an awkward trip, getting bumped coming out of the gate and did not get a good set-up. She wasn't beaten very far. It was frustrating; with a better trip I think she's right there."


While Strathnaver has yet to firmly establish a preferred distance, Motion has his opinions about where it may lie.


"I think possibly 1 1/8 miles is her best distance," said the trainer. "She's won a graded stakes at 1 ½ miles and almost won a Grade 1 at a mile, so logic tells you it's somewhere in the middle."


Strathnaver will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post 4, and sits at 6-1 on the morning line.


Rounding out the field are graded stakes winners Abaco and Nellie Cashman, and maiden winner Night Song.


The field for the G2, $250,000 Ballston Spa:








Nellie Cashman (PA)

F Boyce


F Abbott, III



Centre Court (KY)

J R. Leparoux


G R. Arnold, II



Abaco (KY)

J L. Ortiz


C R. McGaughey III



Strathnaver (GB)

J R. Velazquez


H Graham Motion



Dayatthespa (NY)

J Castellano


C C. Brown



Night Song (KY)

M Franco


A Tarrant



Filimbi (KY)

J Rosario


W I. Mott




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