08/29/2004 12:00AM

Lady Tak wins 3-way Ballerina photo


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - As the field rounded the turn in Sunday's $250,000 Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga, Lady Tak, who controlled the pace, looked like she was on her way to an uneventful victory in the seven-furlong race.

But the Grade 1 Ballerina ended with a three-horse photo, a steward's inquiry, and two jockey objections. After several minutes of deliberation, the stewards let the result stand and Lady Tak was declared a head winner over My Trust Cat. It was another head back to Harmony Lodge, last year's winner, in third in the seven-horse field of fillies and mares.

Lady Tak, under jockey Jerry Bailey, set the pace through testing fractions of 22.35 seconds, 44.49, and 1:07.09.

Steps before the wire, Lady Tak, the 4-5 favorite, came out slightly under Bailey's left-handed whip and bumped with My Trusty Cat, who in turn bumped with Harmony Lodge on her outside. With the three runners bunched so close together, Richard Migliore, Harmony Lodge's rider, inadvertently made contact with his hand and My Trust Cat's face.

The stewards posted the inquiry sign. Migliore claimed foul against John Velazquez, the rider of My Trusty Cat. Velazquez claimed foul against Bailey.

Dr. Ted Hill, the steward representing the New York Racing Association, said he and the two other stewards, allowed the result to stand in part because they believed everyone shared in the blame and because the incident unfolded so close to the wire.

Lady Tak ($3.70) covered the distance in 1:21.09, a stakes record, over a fast track.

Bailey, who turned 47 on Sunday, said, "I thought [My Trusty Cat] running up between us, when she was doing it, kind of touched my filly in the butt. When you do that it turns the front end in a little bit, which compounds the problem a little bit."

Bailey said he hadn't planned on Lady Tak having such a commanding lead on the turn.

"I know sitting on her back, seven-eighths is a bit of a stretch for her," Bailey said.

Velazquez said Harmony Lodge took a solid bump from Lady Tak.

"That bump cost me the win," Velazquez said.

Owned by Heiligbrodt Stable, Lady Tak won the Grade 1 Test here last year as a 3-year-old. Steve Asmussen trains Lady Tak, a daughter of Hennessy.

"Having a lot of speed and being on the rail at Saratoga is a good combination," Asmussen said. "This race has been our target all year."