08/26/2017 3:09PM

By the Moon by a head in Ballerina Stakes

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Ronnie Betor
By the Moon (inside) narrowly beats Highway Star in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Benefiting from a heads-up ride by Rajiv Maragh, By the Moon scored the second Grade 1 victory of her career in the Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday. A 5-year-old, By the Moon had won the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park as a 2-year-old.

By the Moon usually stalks the pace in her races, but Maragh knew there was not a true front-runner in the field. When he sensed nobody else was going to the lead in the seven-furlong race for fillies and mares, he took the initiative with By the Moon.

By the Moon got away with a leisurely quarter-mile in 24.05 seconds and a slow half-mile in 47.81 while being pressed by Highway Star, who also generally comes from off the pace.

By the Moon and Highway Star battled for the length of the stretch, with By the Moon resolutely holding on for a head victory. It was another length back to Carina Mia, who attempted to rally outside the top pair in the stretch but could not find the extra gear she needed.

Paulassilverling, the 2-1 favorite who had won the Honorable Miss Handicap earlier in the meet, tracked the early leaders but lacked the needed rally when asked and finished fifth.

By the Moon is owned by the Jay Em Ess Stable of Samantha Siegel and is trained by Michelle Nevin. By the Moon is now 7 for 19 in her career, with earnings of $1.57 million. By the Moon paid $13 to win as the fifth choice in the competitive field.

She was timed in 1:22.97 seconds, a solid time considering the slow early fractions. By the Moon covered her final furlong in a good 12.07 seconds.

"There was no clear-cut speed in the field," Maragh said. "She is usually better stalking, but Michelle and I decided that if we could get an easy lead, we should take it. This was a very moderate pace for these horses. When I looked over and saw the horse to my outside was Highway Star, I knew we were going slow."

The $500,000 Ballerina is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, and By the Moon earned a fees-paid berth in the $1 million BC Filly and Mare Sprint, a seven-furlong stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 4.

Nevin was proud of her mare after the race. By the Moon has now won six stakes, five graded.

"She always gives you everything she has," Nevin said. "Now that she is in the Breeders’ Cup, we'll have to regroup and plan out the next couple of months and determine the best way to get her there."

Fourth-place finisher Birdatthewire broke slowly. Curlin's Approval has speed but didn't get away sharply and was bottled up behind the early leaders. She dropped back on the far turn and finished sixth.