08/24/2007 12:00AM

Burmilla up to Ballerina challenge


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Burmilla will race in new colors for a different trainer when she starts in Sunday's $250,000 Ballerina Stakes. It's a good bet, though, that the results will end up exactly the same as they have in each of her four previous starts, with Burmilla once again posing in the winner's circle at the conclusion of the Grade 1 dash for fillies and mares.

Burmilla made her first four starts for Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley Stable and trainer Eoin Harty but was transferred to trainer Saeed bin Suroor's barn shortly after her 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Stakes here on Aug. 3. Burmilla, who will compete in the familiar blue-and-white silks of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Stable for the first time on Sunday, drew the outside post in a field of 10 fillies and mares entered for the Ballerina. Rick Mettee, assistant trainer for Godolphin, said he is hoping the draw will prove more of a positive than a negative for the undefeated filly, who will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.

"There's a chance for rain on Sunday, and my one caveat would be having the 10 hole in the slop," said Mettee. "But it doesn't look on paper like there's much pace in the race, and being outside should give Rafael a good look at things."

Mettee said that even though he has been overseeing Burmilla's training for the past several weeks, he still confers with Harty, whose barn is adjacent to Godolphin's on the backstretch at Saratoga's main track.

"Eoin has a good look at her every day, and he feels she appears to be doing just as well as when she left his barn earlier this month," said Mettee who noted the newly created Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint is definitely on the radar for Burmilla. "She'll be going further than she's ever been on Sunday, but I'm happy with her, and I don't feel seven furlongs will be a problem."

Burmilla will face her sternest test to date in the Ballerina, going up against three-time Grade 1 winner Pussycat Doll; Grade 2 winners Maryfield, Miraculous Miss, and Indian Flare; Boca Grande and Baroness Thatcher, who were second and third earlier this month in the Grade 1 Test; and the 2006 Test winner, Swap Fliparoo.

Pussycat Doll wheels back off both short rest and a cross-country trip after finishing fourth as the 8-5 favorite in Del Mar's Rancho Bernardo Handicap just nine days earlier. The loss was the second in a row over a synthetic surface for Pussycat Doll, a 5-year-old daughter of Real Quiet. She was sixth in Hollywood Park's A Gleam Handicap on July 6. Before those performances, Pussycat Doll won the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita and finished second in defense of her title in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs.

"I've done this before, and it's worked for me," said Baffert of bringing horses back off a dull performance on short rest. "She got herself really wound up going to the gate before both of her races over the artificial surface. She never picked her feet up in her last race. If she shows up, seven furlongs is a good distance for her."

Indian Flare, second behind Burmilla in the Honorable Miss, won Belmont's Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap earlier this season.

Maryfield and Miraculous Miss finished fourth and fifth behind River's Prayer in Calder's Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap. Stretch-runners, they were compromised by a speed-biased strip.

The Princess Rooney was the first start in more than seven months for Miraculous Miss. She ran off three straight graded stakes wins last year at 3, including the seven-furlong Forward Gal, a Grade 2 at Gulfstream Park.

Boca Grande rallied from near the rear of the pack and outfinished Baroness Thatcher by a neck for second in the Test.

- additional reporting by David Grening