09/13/2014 5:22PM

Ball Dancing takes down Sands Point in US debut


ELMONT, N.Y. – Having been aboard the filly a couple of times in the morning, Joe Bravo left the jockey’s room full of confidence in Ball Dancing, his mount for Saturday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Sands Point Stakes at Belmont Park.

As he walked into the paddock and saw Ball Dancing rearing up and giving his handlers a difficult time, his confidence waned.

“I went into this race thinking I couldn’t get beat, and when I got to the paddock and saw that, my heart just fell out,” Bravo said.

Ball Dancing eventually settled down and focused her energy on her task at hand, which ended up being out-finishing her stablemate, Xcellence, to win the Sands Point by a half-length. Both Ball Dancing, who was making her U.S. debut, and Xcellence are trained by Chad Brown.

“Once she got on the track, she really settled down,” Bravo said. “First time over here, she didn’t know what was going on, what was expected. She just won today on raw ability.”

According to Cherie DeVaux, Brown’s assistant who saddled Ball Dancing, the filly became agitated when she went to take the halter off the filly.

“Trying to get the halter off, she was a little shy about,” DeVaux said. “Around the barn, she kicks. You have to be a little careful around her. It was only for a short amount of time. The outrider, I will give him all the credit. He did a god job of keeping her calm and getting the situation under control.”

In the race, Ball Dancing settled near the back of the pack, and Bravo kept his eye on Daring Dancer, the Lake George Stakes winner, who Bravo felt was the horse to beat.

Daring Dancer, perhaps again not caring for the soft turf, which was labeled firm despite showers that began falling at 3 p.m., offered little response when John Velazquez asked her to run. Bravo made a five-wide move into the lane, but Xcellence came to her outside. Ball Dancing still had something left in the stretch to out-finish her stablemate.

Ball Dancing, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Exchange Rate who raced in France for trainer Pa Brandt, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.18 and returned $12.60 to win. Ball Dancing is owned by a partnership of Will Farish and Steve Mooney.

Xcellence, who was coming off a half-length loss in the Lake Placid Stakes, appeared to hesitate once she made the lead, according to her jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr.

“I had a lot of horse. When she got the lead, she waited a little bit,” Ortiz said. “The other one ran great, too. She came back and beat me.”