A pair of seven-furlong sprints with Breeders’ Cup aspirations highlight the Saturday card at Del Mar and the Sunday program at Saratoga. East Coast invader Speaker’s Corner is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the horse racing odds to win the Grade II Pat O’Brien Stakes in California. Veteran mares Bella Sofia and Ce Ce square off in the Grade I Ballerina Stakes in New York.
Dancing Duo in Ballerina
A field of seven has assembled for the $500,000 Grade I Ballerina (Race 9, 5:39 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1), but two co-star. Ce Ce, the 2021 BC Filly and Mare Sprint champion, and Bella Sofia, five lengths behind in that race, are expected to attract the bulk of the attention when betting online. Ce Ce, third in the 2021 Ballerina, comes off a smashing victory at 2-5 in the Grade II Princess Rooney (Gulfstream). Bella Sofia was an inexplicable third (at 3-5) in the Grade II Honorable Miss (Saratoga) last month. The duo own the lion’s share of the triple-digit Beyer speed figures in the field.
Ce Ce, a 6-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality, drew the rail. Victor Espinoza rides for trainer Mi0ke McCarthy.
Bella Sofia is trained by Rudy Rodriguez, 2-for-72 at the current Saratoga meet entering Friday. “It’s been tough, but it’s nothing that we can’t put behind us,” Rodriguez, who was 11-for-82 in 2021, told Bloodhorse.
Luis Saez rides the 4-year-old Awesome Patriot filly, leaving from post No. 4.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has three (of the seven) in the Ballerina, with Obligatory likeliest to challenge or defeat the top two lasses. Obligatory finished second to Bella Sofia in the Bed O’ Roses Invitational (Belmont) in June in her last start. Travel Column comes with a black-type work, while Caramel Swirl gets tested for class.
Lady Rocket will take them as far as she can for Brad Cox. Lady Rocket’s 107 Beyer in winning the Go For Wand (Aqueduct) in December is the highest in the field. Goodnight Olive has won four straight for trainer Chad Brown, but not against anything close to the caliber she’ll face in the Ballerina.
Speaker’s Corner Heads West
Speaker’s Corner won’t have Flightline or Life Is Good to worry about in the $250,000 Grade II Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar Saturday evening (Race 9, 9:02 p.m. ET, TVG). Speaker’s Corner had won four straight before finishing behind arguably the two fastest horses in training in his last two.
Jockey Mike Smith pilots Speaker’s Corner from post position No. 8 (of 10 entered), with the other speed horses all drawing inside of the 6-5 early choice in the wagering. American Theorem is in with a shot after winning the Grade I Bing Crosby (Del Mar) in July. Joe Bravo should have the 5-year-old positioned behind the speed from post 4 and is capable of pouncing if the race falls apart. ‘Theorem’ is the 4-1 morning-line second choice.
Sunday’s ‘Other’ Stakes at Both Venues
A pair of stakes races, one on each coast, are set for Sunday. The $150,000 Grade III Rancho Bernardo (Del Mar) features fillies and mares 3-years-old and older at 6½ furlongs (Race 8, 8:30 p.m. ET, TVG). Saratoga offers the $135,000 Better Talk Now for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf (Race 8, 5:05 p.m., FS1).
The defending champ Edgeway leads the Rancho Bernardo. Edgeway, trained by John Sadler, could not handle Obligatory in the Grade II Derby City Distaff (Churchill) in May, but may find this field more to her liking. Private Mission, ridden by Smith and conditioned by Bob Baffert, could have a say. Private Mission returns to sprinting after a lackluster effort in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch (Del Mar) at odds of 7-2.
Wit is trying turf and two turns for the second time for trainer Todd Pletcher in the Better Talk Now. The Practical Joke colt was second in the Grade II Hall of Fame Stakes (Saratoga) last out. Camp David makes his turf debut, having finishing 15 lengths behind Cyberknife in the Matt Winn (Churchill) in June.
Check the racebook for odds and probables prior to these races.