SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – First Row Partners and Team Hanley’s Goodnight Olive faced a deep group in her stakes debut in Sunday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina Handicap and handled the jump up in class with flying colors, capturing the seven-furlong test for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward by 2 3/4 lengths .
Trained by four-time meet leader Chad Brown, Goodnight Olive squared up against reigning Champion Female Sprinter Ce Ce as well as Grade 1-winners Obligatory and Bella Sofia in the 44th renewal of the Ballerina – a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on November 5 at Keeneland. The 4-year-old Ghostzapper dark bay was able to strut her stuff to a fifth straight victory, carrying 118 pounds under a tactical ride by Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Leaving from the outermost post 7, Goodnight Olive tracked a close third down the backstretch while dual graded stakes winner Travel Column other Bella Sofia, winner of last year’s Grade 1 Longines Test, battled through an opening quarter-mile in 22.09 seconds over the fast main track. Goodnight Olive advanced into second approaching the turn, passing a tiring Bella Sofia and with Travel Column still the one to catch. Through a half-mile in 44.50, Goodnight Olive inched her way up to even terms with the pacesetter as graded stakes winner Caramel Swirl advanced into third on the outside.
Goodnight Olive swept past Travel Column passing the quarter-pole with Caramel Swirl advancing into second and Mandatory, seven wide on the turn, launching a late bid. But Goodnight Olive had plenty in reserve and completed the distance in 1:21.40. Caramel Swirl held second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Bill Mott-trained stablemate Obligatory. Travel Column, also trained by Mott, ce ce, Lady Rocketand Bella Sofia completed the order of finish.
Goodnight Olive entered the Ballerina off a string of four open-lengths triumphs, the most recent of which was a third level allowance optional claimer at the Spa on August 7, which she won by 3 3/4 lengths. The win came just six weeks after a victorious 2022 debut going seven furlongs at Belmont Park. Last year, she broke her maiden at second asking in October at Keeneland by 8 1/2 lengths, one month before defeating winners at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The win marked the third collaborative stakes conquest this meet for Ortiz, Jr. and Brown, including scores with Dolce Zel [Grade 3 Lake George, July 22] and Artorius [Curlin, July 29].
“They were going a little fast, but she was going the right way. She was relaxed and in a good spot. I bid my time and waited. Turning for home, she was there for me,” said Ortiz, Jr. “She always wins the right way. In the allowance races, you could see how easy she won. She’s a nice filly but she had never faced Grade 1 horses in the afternoon, but she did it today and she showed up. The trainer picked the races for her step by step, didn’t rush, and today the patience paid off.”
Brown expressed delight with how the race unfolded and credited Ortiz, Jr. for being an effective pilot.
“It played out just exactly as we thought. We thought she’d be laying roughly third – we talked about it in the paddock – off a hot pace, so Irad and I were both on the same page; don’t get involved so much with the pace but don’t be too far away,” Brown said. “She drew beautiful with the seven post. Of all the options in the world, I was very pleased after the draw. I thought we had a good shot in the race, but it was a deep field. As I was handicapping the race this afternoon, I could make a case for five, maybe six horses that, if they ran their very best today, could win. Beautiful ride by Irad, beautiful post.”
Brown also credited a patient ownership group.
“I want to thank my team and all these beautiful partners that are in the picture here. There’s been more not good phone calls about this filly than good phone calls. She ain’t run a lot,” Brown said. “A lot of stop and go with her, not her dad who I worked with unlike, Ghostzapper. Maybe not on the track often, but very talented. She’s had some soundness issues, but the team of owners always let me do the right thing, take my time with this horse and never push her beyond what she was ready to do. She finally got it all together. She’s nice and sound and healthy, and I appreciate their patience.”
Brown said Goodnight Olive is lightly-raced as she had to have chips removed from ankles several times.
“I’m fortunate for our team at Rood and Riddle to Dr. Bramlage and to my team, taking care of this filly. She’s come back well. We’re just trying to keep her on track,” Brown said.
Brown did not completely rule out giving Goodnight Olive one more start before the Breeders’ Cup.
“I don’t know if I’ll run her between now and [the Breeders’ Cup]. She just ran back in three weeks, that’d be the reason,” Brown said. “We’ll see how she’s doing. With her, you can’t take anything for granted. She’s had a lot of stoppages, but now she’s good. Knock on wood, she stays that way.”
Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza, aboard field high weight Ce Ce , said the earner of over $2.2 million did not take to the track. She finished third in last year’s Ballerina behind Gamine.
“She’s a little bit picky when it comes to the track and today it wasn’t her favorite. She bounced out of there and she wasn’t doing her thing. I was just trying to encourage her to get her rhythm but it seemed like she struggled,” Espinoza said. “I tried to get her outside and hoped. I tried everything I can and hopefully she could go forward. But it’s one of those things where if she doesn’t like the track she won’t run. She wants to be OK. She will get them next time. The most important thing is that she comes out good and we’ll go for the next.”
Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Goodnight Olive is out of the multiple graded stakes-winning Smart Strike mare Salty Strike – a direct descendant of influential broodmare Almahmoud. She was purchased for $170,000 from the Summerfield consignment at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Sale.
Live racing resumes Wednesday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring the Grade 2, $175,000 With Anticipation in Race 9. First post is 1:05 pm Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Press Release
Photo: Goodnight Olive (NYRA Photo)