Updated on 08/24/2012 10:49AM

Saratoga: Turbulent Descent Ballerina favorite; It's Tricky opts for Personal Ensign

Barbara D. Livingston
Turbulent Descent (above) looks like a standout in the Grade 1 Ballerina if It’s Tricky scratches in favor of the Personal Ensign Handicap.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – On paper, Friday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina Stakes looks like an intriguing matchup between Grade 1 winners Turbulent Descent and It’s Tricky.

On the track, it will look completely different.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has scratched It’s Tricky out of the Ballerina to instead run in Sunday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign Invitational Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. With the scratch, Turbulent Descent is a standout in the Ballerina. She has won 7 of 11 starts, including the Grade 1 Test here by nearly four lengths last summer. Following a victory in a tough overnight stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in June – her first start of the year – Turbulent Descent was purchased privately by the Coolmore Stud connections and turned over to trainer Todd Pletcher.

Prior to the purchase, Pletcher had traveled to Southern California to watch Turbulent Descent train and get some information from her previous trainer, Mike Puype.

“She’s everything that she’s advertised to be – terrific mind, push-button in the mornings, she’s kind to train,” Pletcher said. “Johnny [Velazquez] had the opportunity to breeze her a couple of times to get to know her a little bit. It’s all been good.”

The only bad thing is it appears that Turbulent Descent likes to have a target to run at early in a race. Provided It’s Tricky comes out, the speed of the race is not easily identifiable.

“I think our filly will be relatively close,” Pletcher said. “From that post [6], I don’t think it really matters for her. I agree, there’s not a confirmed front-runner. I would imagine Nicole H would be close.”

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Nicole H, winner of the Grade 2 Distaff at Aqueduct in 2011, has been close to the front early in some of her races, though most of her wins have come from just off the pace. Nicole H has lost her last five starts, four of them by three-quarters of a length or less. She was beaten a half-length by defending champion female sprinter Musical Romance in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney on July 7 at Calder.

“I thought her last race was good, but the last two races she lost she had in her hip pocket, and we had to settle for second money,” trainer Mike Hushion said.

A horse with the potential to set the pace is All Due Respect, a 5-year-old trained by Richard Dutrow Jr. who has been in front in her last two starts, both on turf, and has been close to the lead in some of her dirt starts as well. Joel Rosario rides from post 2.

Completing the field are Island Bound, beaten a neck when second in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss when the early pace was hot; Derwin’s Star, upset winner of the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont in July; and the late-running Belle of the Hall.

The Ballerina is a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race, offering a fees-paid berth to the BC Filly and Mare Sprint and a $10,000 travel allowance.