12/01/2007 12:00AM

Ballast repeats in Tropical Turf

Jim Lisa
Ballast (right) holds off National Captain in Saturday?s Grade 3 Tropical Park Turf Handicap.
MIAMI - Ballast, winless since capturing the 2006 Tropical Park Turf Handicap, successfully defended that title Saturday by outfinishing National Captain to post a hard fought neck verdict in the Grade 3 event.

The Tropical Park Turf was the best of four $100,000 stakes that made up Saturday's Grand Slam I program at Calder.

Ballast, a 6-year-old son of Desert Prince owned by Richard Thompson, rallied to a 1 1/4-length triumph in the 2006 Tropical Turf but was without a victory in five subsequent starts prior to returning to Calder on Saturday. He was also coming off one of the worst performances of his career, a seventh and last-place finish as the 6-5 favorite in the one-mile Carey Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne.

But under a perfectly judged ride by jockey Kent Desormeaux, Ballast rated off the early pace of Salinja, saved ground around the second turn, split rivals to gain control near the eighth pole, and was dead game to withstand a late surge from National Captain. Minister's Joy rallied from last to finish third.

Host, the 8-5 favorite coming off a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile, raced near the rear of the pack and never threatened, finishing eighth in a field of 10 grass specialists.

Ballast went postward at 7-2, the same price as he did when he won this race a year ago. He paid $9 after getting nine furlongs in 1:48.54 over a firm course and completed an all-stakes pick four that returned $104.50 for $1.

"Kent gave him a super ride," trainer Graham Motion said by phone from Maryland after the race. "I still can't figure out what happened to him in his last start other than the fact he might not like the mile trip. He seems to really like a mile and one-eighth, and obviously he loves that turf course at Calder. He's been down in south Florida since Keeneland with my assistant David Rock who has done a superb job with him. He's a neat horse to train and I'm very pleased he was able to win this race again."