06/26/2006 11:00PM

Turf beckons to Balletto

After being taken out of retirement, Balletto has not returned to her previous form in three dirt starts. Her pedigree should make grass racing an enticing proposition.


Balletto was the second-best 2-year-old filly in 2004, right behind Sweet Catomine, and was retired shortly after returning to the United Arab Emirates after her juvenile season. By leading Japanese stallion Timber Country, a champion at 2 in this country, Balletto descends from the great matriarch Courtly Dee. Retirement plans were put on hold, and Balletto returned to the races this year at 4, looking like she was rounding to form in two races leading up to the Ogden Phipps Handicap on June 17. But in that race she looked sluggish, trailing the seven-horse field and putting in a belated rally to finish third, beaten by more than 13 lengths.

I have always wanted to see Balletto on turf, since she is by Timber Country (Woodman) and out of the stakes-winning Destiny Dance (Nijinsky II). After three mediocre races on dirt after her long layoff, it's time to try Balletto on grass, where I think her talent will really come out.

* Storm Cat is the sire of After Market, a 3-year-old colt who won a nine-furlong allowance on turf on June 15. Making his first start off a seven-month layoff, After Market rallied from off the pace to win by 1 3/4 lengths. He is out of major stakes winner Tranquility Lake, and looks like a nice grass prospect for trainer Bill Mott.

* Minister's Joy, a 4-year-old colt who won a 1 1/16-mile allowance on turf, comes from a famous female family and has a strong pedigree for turf top and bottom. By 2-year-old champion Deputy Minister, a versatile stallion and a grandson of Northern Dancer, Minister's Joy is out of the A.P. Indy mare Meghan's Joy. Second dam is Queens Wild, who is by Spectacular Bid (who became a strong turf influence) and out of major stakes winner and producer Wild Applause. Wild Applause is out of former Broodmare of the Year Glowing Tribute, whose many stakes winners include 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero.


Frances Slam, who won a five-furlong maiden race in her career debut on June 14, was bred to be quick early. By Grand Slam, one of Gone West's best sons at stud, she is out of the Slew City Slew mare Secret Tomysuccess. Her second dam is by Doonesbury, a son of Matsadoon (by Damascus).

* Trainer D. Wayne Lukas may have a future stakes-winning 2-year-old filly with Deep Springs, who was an impressive winner of a five-furlong maiden race on June 17. Deep Springs is by Storm Cat and is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Clearwater, a half-sister to stakes winner Buffythecenterfold. Second dam Augusta Springs is a half-sister to stakes winner Cuddles and to Nuryette, the dam of stakes winners Tap to Music and Northern Afleet (sire of Afleet Alex).


Crested, a 3-year-old gelding by international turf star Fantastic Light, won a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance on June 14 for trainer Wally Dollase. Bred by Darley Stable, Crested is out of the Danzig mare Dunnes River, and his fourth dam, See You at the Top, is a half-sister to Priceless Fame, a full sister to 1976 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Bold Forbes. Priceless Fame produced Milliardaire, the dam of Lakeway, as well as stakes winners Dunbeath and Saratoga Six.

* Trainer Todd Pletcher, who once again has an army of 2-year-olds, unveiled one of his better prospects in Circular Quay, who won his maiden debut, a 5 1/2-furlong race, by 6 1/4 lengths on June 15. Circular Quay is by Thunder Gulch and is out of Spinaway Stakes winner Circle of Life (Belong to Me). Bred to get better with age and distance, offspring by Thunder Gulch are noteworthy when they show so much ability early in their careers. Expect to see Circular Quay, along with Pletcher's other highly regarded juvenile winner Scat Dadd at Saratoga.


Officer was among my top picks to be one of this year's best freshmen sires. Having top speed as a 2-year-old, he was the pro-tem divisional champion until he faltered in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Johannesburg. On June 18, Glenwood Ace, a 2-year-old colt from Officer's first crop, won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race on the turf, paying $7.60.

On June 24 at Churchill Downs, Officer had another winner when Frances G, a 2-year-old filly, won her career debut against some well-bred fillies at $27.80.

Keep an eye on all the juveniles by Officer at distances up to 1 1/16 miles.


Swiss Yodeler is well-known for siring a ton of 2-year-old winners every year, and Swiss Yodeler's offspring are usually well-bet in their first starts. But players were sleeping on June 15 when Mike Harrington, who trains the majority of Swiss Yodeler's offspring, unveiled Short Sentence, who scampered off to a 7 1/2-length victory, returning $22.20.

* South of Broad, who won a seven-furlong maiden race on June 17 in his first start, looks like a good one for trainer Bobby Frankel. By Broad Brush, South of Broad is out of the Forty Niner mare Fortyniner Fever, a half-sister to 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

Blake's Passion, who rallied to finish third at 21-1 behind South of Broad, is a colt to put on your horses-to-watch list. By the late Saint Ballado, he is out of stakes winner Lotka, a full sister to classic-placed Stephan's Odyssey.