Starship Truffles bounced around quite a bit over a two-week span last month. One day she won a Grade 1 stakes at her home track. Three days later she traveled from South Florida to Central Kentucky and a day after that started the rigorous presale inspection process leading up to the inaugural Fasig-Tipton summer horses of racing age sale. She went through the actual auction less than a week after arriving in her native state-bringing a sale-topping $1 million bid in the process-and two days later was back in Florida.
Starship Truffles isn’t, and neither is Marty Wolfson.
Good thing, because now the 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly and her trainer are in Saratoga, where they’ll take on 10 other older fillies and mares in today’s Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes. The Ballerina, worth $500,000 and run at 7 furlongs, is the first of five Grade 1 stakes set for Travers Stakes weekend.
Starship Truffles is the 6-1 fourth choice in the morning line, behind California shipper and fellow Grade 1 winner Book Review, Honorable Miss winner Dance to Bristol and Judy the Beauty.
“She sold on a Monday and was back with me by Wednesday,” said Wolfson, who hit town Wednesday and was on hand to see the filly train Thursday.
Wolfson said Starship Truffles didn’t miss much more time than she normally would have after a race going through the auction process, where she ultimately was purchased by Shane Ryan’s Castleton Lyons. She’ll race in Ryan’s dark green and black colors today, the same that multiple champion Gio Ponti raced under not many years back.
“I was glad to get her back,” Wolfson said. “I’d been in touch with the new owner right after the sale and they asked if I’d like to have her. Of course I said yes. She missed the time she would have after a race. Usually I give them five days, so she only had a couple extra days and then we started looking at the Ballerina.”
The race Starship Truffles won before the sale-which unquestionably increased her value exponentially-was the Grade 1 Princess Rooney at Calder. She won the 6-furlong race impressively, defeating the troubled Judy the Beauty by 3 ¾ lengths for her second straight win.
Starship Truffles blitzed a starter optional race one start before that-a race she’s eligible for because she ran for as cheap a tag as $6,250 in July 2012.
Wolfson considered the Ballerina all along, thinking it would be a good steppingstone to a possible start later in the year in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita. That was before she was a late addition to the Fasig-Tipton sale. Chasing Tails Stables, which purchased the filly privately last summer for $20,000 on the advice of Wolfson, made the call to put her in the sale four days after the Princess Rooney.
The decision to sell obviously put things in doubt for the filly and for Wolfson, who wasn’t sure if he’d ever see the 14-time winner again, knowing full well whoever bought her could hire another trainer or make the decision to retire her before season’s end. Once he got her back things were still in flux.
The $100,000 Paseana Stakes at Gulfstream, Wolfson’s new base after years at Calder, was also an option. Ryan was game though, opted for the Ballerina and Wolfson sent the filly to Saratoga.
“It was kind of up in the air,” Wolfson said. “There was a stakes here the other day that we thought about, but Mr. Ryan really wanted to run in the Grade 1. It all worked out actually since I had another filly [My Pal Chrisy] I wanted to run in that race and she ended up winning it. I didn’t want to run them together.”
Wolfson didn’t shy from the challenge, either, and knows what it takes to win the Ballerina. He won it in 1996 with Chaposa Springs, who defeated heavy favorite Capote Belle in the process. Chaposa Springs also won the Grade 1 Test in 1995 for Wolfson, who also scored Grade 1 Saratoga wins with Ask the Moon in the 2011 Ruffian and Personal Ensign, Icon Project in the 2009 Personal Ensign and Pomeroy in the 2006 Forego.
Ollie Figgins, who brings the streaking Dance to Bristol back to Saratoga, is not as familiar with Grade 1 events as Wolfson, or Kiaran McLaughlin, Allen Jerkens, Bob Baffert, Jimmy Toner and Bill Mott, who are among the trainers with entries in the race. In fact, he’s not familiar with them at all.
Sitting on a picnic table on a quiet morning earlier this week near the Saratoga Morning Line kitchen, Figgins caught up on some phone calls, texts and emails a few days before his Grade 1 debut. A few hundred yards away Dance to Bristol, winner of the Grade 2 Honorable Miss earlier in the meet, rested comfortably in her stall in Pat Kelly’s barn. She returned to Saratoga last weekend, shortly after breezing a strong 5 furlongs at Figgins’ home base at Bowie in Maryland.
“A little more than three weeks and not quite a month, so I figured one work would be fine with her,” Figgins said. “I’d like to do well in this race, hopefully. Like I say though, it’s hard to keep going like that at this level, but she seems to find a way to win.”
Dance to Bristol will face a familiar foe in Classic Point in the Ballerina. Trained by Jerkens, Classic Point nearly lasted in the Honorable Miss before Dance to Bristol caught her in the final strides. Figgins, 38, got a thrill when the 84-year-old Hall of Famer wished him good luck before the Honorable Miss. The Maryland-based trainer might get the same feeling today, but isn’t overly thrilled to see Classic Point back.
“I don’t like that,” Figgins said with a smile. “If he’s coming back in there he likes his horse, you know?”
Classic Point is certainly not the only rival that could end Dance to Bristol’s six-race winning streak that dates back to early February at Laurel.
Baffert shipped Book Review from his Del Mar base for the Ballerina. She’s won two of four with two seconds since owners Gary and Mary West sent her out West from Chad Brown’s eastern string to Baffert. The Giant’s Causeway filly won the Grade 1 La Brea in her first start for Baffert and added the Grade 2 A Gleam last time out.
Judy the Beauty lost almost all chance when she got squeezed to the back of the field in the Princess Rooney and still managed to finish second. Trained by Wesley Ward, she was second in last year’s Prioress and the 2011 Spinaway here and was second on two other graded stakes races.
The field also includes Villanesca, winner of the Magnolia Jackson last time for Darley and McLaughlin, Vagrancy winner Glorious View, Florida shipper Street Girl, Saratoga allowance/optional Moment in Dixie, recent claim Sure Route and Fantasy of Flight.