10/04/2006 11:00PM

Balletto gets nice pace setup


ELMONT, N.Y. - The front-running Fleet Indian has won all five of her starts this year, in large part because she has gotten favorable pace scenarios in those races. The late-running has lost all five of her starts this year, in large part because she has not gotten favorable pace scenarios.

Such was the case in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga when Fleet Indian waltzed to an easy 4 1/2-length victory over Balletto, who had to move earlier than her connections would have preferred in finishing second.

When the two meet again in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Beldame the pendulum may swing in Balletto's favor, as there appears to be plenty of other speed to keep Fleet Indian company up front. Thus, Balletto may have an excellent chance to gain her first win in two years and earn a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

Five Grade 1 winners and the Grade 2 winner Teammate were entered for the Beldame, which will go as race 6 on a 10-race Belmont Park card topped by the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Though trainer Tom Albertrani believes Balletto prefers races contested around two turns, he chose the one-turn Beldame over Sunday's $500,000 Spinster at Keeneland because of the apparent speed in this field. He also believes his filly is flourishing as the weather has turned cooler this autumn.

"Right now, she couldn't be better," Albertrani said.

The only time this year Balletto got a favorable pace scenario was in the Go for Wand at Saratoga. She looked like she was going to win that race, but she fell a nose short to the game Spun Sugar, who is running in the Spinster.

In the Frizette, Balletto could once again get a strong pace to close into, with Take D' Tour and Teammate in the field as well as Fleet Indian.

"The race could set up quite nicely for her," said Albertrani, whose filly will break from post 6. "Although she has run best at two turns, she ran well enough here to believe that she can be just as effective going a mile and an eighth [around one turn]."

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Fleet Indian - who has won seven straight races dating back to last November - admits that his filly has benefited by being the controlling speed in most of her races this year.

But Jose Santos, who has ridden Fleet Indian in all five of her 2006 starts, believes Fleet Indian is the controlling force in the race regardless of whether she makes the lead or not.

"I don't think she has to be on the lead," Santos said. "She has such a long stride and she's such a big horse, the horses that have speed are going to have to have real good speed to keep up with her. If they want to go faster than her she can always sit comfortable. I think she can overpower those horses."

Round Pond, Sweet Symphony, and Take D' Tour are the other Grade 1 winners in the field.

Round Pond, who won the Acorn here as a 3-year-old, could be very dangerous in what will be her second start off a layoff. In the Molly Pitcher at Monmouth, Round Pond was kept very wide the entire race and lost a head-bob to Promenade Girl.

Take D' Tour was at her best in the spring when she won the Shuvee and the Ogden Phipps while loose on the lead. She comes off a second-place finish to Pool Land in the Ruffian.

Teammate comes in off runner-up finishes to Pine Island in the Alabama and Gazelle and has looked more comfortable rating just off the pace. Cornelio Velasquez took off Take D' Tour, on whom he won two graded stakes, to stick with Teammate.

Sweet Symphony is seeking her first win since last year's Alabama.