08/22/2012 4:09PM

Saratoga: Summer Soiree returns in Ballston Spa

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Summer Soiree will make her first start since November in Saturday's Del Mar Oaks.

Summer Soiree, a Grade 1-winning 3-year-old filly of 2011, makes her 4-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

In her first start since last November’s Matriarch, in which she was beaten one-half length, Summer Soiree will square off against Grade 1 winners Tapitsfly and Zagora, as well as Hungry Island and Ruthenia.

Summer Soiree, a daughter of War Front, won 4 of 7 starts as a 3-year-old, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks last August. Following a fifth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland and her second in the Matriarch, trainer Graham Motion said he gave Summer Soiree the winter off. When he was getting ready to bring her back, Summer Soiree had a gastrointestinal illness that forced him to have to give her more time.

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“She’s doing great now,” said Motion, who trains Summer Soiree for Team Valor. “I kind of had this race in mind for a while. I didn’t know if she’d be ready in time.”

Motion said Summer Soiree is the type of filly that would run “a big race off the layoff” and he didn’t want to waste that type of effort in a lesser race.

“I know how hard she runs,” Motion said. “No doubt we’re coming back in the deep end, but she’s a very nice filly and she’s doing well.”

Julien Leparoux rides Summer Soiree from post 5 in the eight-horse field.

Summer Soiree is a front-running type and she will likely encounter a pace challenge from Tapitsfly, who won the Grade 1 Just a Game in gate-to-wire fashion before fading to fourth after setting the pace in the Grade 1 Diana at 1 1/8 miles. Tapitsfly set the pace in last year’s Ballston Spa, finishing second behind Daveron, who, like Summer Soiree, was trained by Motion and owned by Team Valor.

Zagora, coming off a 10-week layoff, finished third in the Grade 1 Diana, a race she won last year.

Hungry Island finished fifth in the Diana, but has undergone a throat operation since that race. She won the Grade 2 Lake Placid over this course last year, beating Winter Memories.

Heavenly Landing and Thundering Emilia complete the field.

Animal Kingdom has first work

Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, breezed three furlongs in 37.20 seconds Tuesday morning at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, his first breeze in more than five months.

Animal Kingdom worked in company with the 3-year-old filly Table Three Ten, a winner of 2 of 3 starts who finished fifth in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds in February.

In his first start since the 2011 Belmont Stakes, Animal Kingdom won an allowance race on the turf at Gulfstream in February. He was subsequently injured in his last workout before he was scheduled to leave for Dubai and a bid at the $10 million World Cup.

“He went super,” said Motion, who showed a visitor a video of the workout. “We did a two-minute lick last week. Yesterday he had a proper breeze.”

Motion has no race that he is specifically trying to make and will work the horse every six or seven days and judge his fitness and conditioning as time goes along. Motion did say that more than likely Animal Kingdom’s return would be in a turf race.

“It’s exciting to have him back,” Motion said.