09/03/2015 1:26PM

Big Thrill ready for encore in Susan’s Girl


The career debut of the filly Big Thrill began as one of those head-in-hands races of sheer disappointment but ended as a hands-in-the-air moment of jubilation.

Money was involved: Big Thrill cost her owners, the Lady Sheila Stable and the Iris Smith Stable, a whopping $410,000 at a 2-year-old auction this past spring. That kind of money leads to expectations, and when Big Thrill brushed the side of the gate at the start of a maiden race Aug. 12 at Saratoga, dropping quickly to last, expectations surely shrank.

The filly remained undaunted. She moved sharply heading into the far turn, weaved her way between horses during a powerful run around the bend, burst to the front in upper stretch, and drew off to win by four lengths.

It was a “wow” performance, and it earned her a trip to south Florida, where she will start as the likely favorite Saturday at Gulfstream in the $300,000 Florida Sire Susan’s Girl Stakes, a seven-furlong dirt race for 2-year-old fillies. Big Thrill is from the first crop of the young sire Big Drama.

“After she broke her maiden, I kind of thought I’d point her to the Spinaway,” said trainer Linda Rice, referring to the Grade 1 race Saturday at Saratoga. “I looked at that race and the race in Florida, and it was clearly an easy choice. Shipping was a factor, but I still felt the benefits far outweighed the concerns.”

Big Thrill is one of 12 entrants in the Susan’s Girl, race 10 of 12 on the card. She will break from post 5 under Edgar Prado, with the locally based Ballet Diva the likely strong second choice.

Key contenders

Big Thrill (Last Beyer: 70)

* High auction price came because she worked so well at a breeze show, and Big Thrill almost certainly has more natural speed than she showed during her debut.

“We thought she would stay a little closer first time out, though of course we were pleased with the end result,” Rice said. “We hope she can lay a little closer Saturday.”

Arrived Sunday from New York and has been given a chance to acclimate to a warmer, more humid climate and a different racing surface.

“We’ve been training her early when it’s cool, and everything has gone well,” Rice said. “She’s settled in.”

Ballet Diva (Last 3 Beyers: 48-76-71)

A blowout winner of her first two starts, she flamed out at 1-5 odds last time, finishing third Aug. 8 in the $200,000 Florida Sire Desert Vixen Stakes. Trainer Stanley Gold put the performance down to track surface.

“She looked to me like she was struggling on that track,” said Gold. “She looked like she was sliding around. They didn’t run real fast in that race. It was pretty dry and cut up.”

Raced without Lasix in her first two starts but will run on the anti-bleeding medication Saturday, though Gold declined to say whether Ballet Diva bled in the Desert Vixen. Gold has won with two of his last eight first-time-Lasix starters, but his ROI with such runners is just 95 cents.