Betting the Ballerina Handicap Using an Exacta and Trifecta Strategy

Betting the Ballerina Handicap Using an Exacta and Trifecta Strategy

Despite drawing only seven runners, the $500,000 Ballerina Handicap features an abundance of depth and quality with three Grade 1 winners, three graded stakes winners, and a budding star riding the crest of a four-race winning streak.

It makes sense given the seven-eighths of a mile sprint Aug. 28 at Saratoga Race Course serves as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Indeed, last year’s Filly and Mare Sprint winner Ce Ce (#1) is one of the headliners for the 2022 Ballerina after running third in the race a year ago.

Ce Ce is arguably better now than she was 12 months ago, having taken home champion female sprinter honors for 2021 after her Filly and Mare Sprint victory. She has won two of four starts this year and enters off a career-best race from a speed-figure perspective (117 Equibase, 101 Beyer) when winning the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Invitational Stakes July 2 at Gulfstream Park. The only concern is that third-place finish last year in her lone start at Saratoga, which might indicate this track is not her favorite surface. That said, she hasn’t run a bad race in eight starts since an unplaced finish in May 2021. Ce Ce always brings it.

There appears to be an abundance of speed in this race in multiple graded stakes winner Lady Rocket (#4), Grade 1 winner Bella Sofia (#5), and Goodnight Olive (#7), the last of which is the rising star referenced earlier who has won four in a row by a combined margin of 26 ¾ lengths. The most-recent win by Goodnight Olive, a 4-year-old filly by Ghostzapper, was the “closest” – a 3 ¾-length runaway on this main track Aug. 7 at 6 ½ furlongs. Because of a timing issue, there are no fractional or final times for that race and thus no speed figures. I’m hoping that race, which I’ve watched a couple of times, does not look as good on paper as it did on replay. Goodnight Olive showed early speed, dropped in behind the pace, swept around three horses on the turn while about six paths wide, and left the opposition in her wake in early stretch.

She carries the least weight in the field and could be a special filly.

I also expect Caramel Swirl (#3) to run well in her second start off a long layoff. She won the Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run Stakes last fall at Keeneland in her final start as a 3-year-old and made her 2022 debut May 20 at Belmont Park, winning by 3 ¾ lengths at this seven-furlong distance in an allowance-optional claiming race. She won her lone start at Saratoga by three lengths, also at this distance, last summer.

Rounding out the field are Obligatory (#2), winner of the Grade 1 Derby City Distaff Stakes Presented by Kendall-Jackson Winery on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve undercard; and Travel Column (#6), who made a nice impression when cutting back in distance to seven furlongs for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in her 4-year-old debut in June at Churchill Downs (Mott also trains Caramel Swirl and Obligatory). I expect both of them to run well and plan to use them underneath in my trifecta bets.

My focus will be playing Goodnight Olive and Caramel Swirl to finish first while using Ce Ce in second for the exacta. For the trifecta, I’ll key my top two in first and second and bump Ce Ce to third along with Obligatory and Travel Column to try to catch a nice payout.

Exacta Strategy on a $12 Budget

$3 exacta: 3,7 with 1,3,7 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, Race 9, $3 exacta 3,7 with 1,3,7 ($12)

Trifecta Strategy on a $24 Budget

$4 trifecta: 3,7 with 3,7 with 1,2,6 ($24)

What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, Race 9, $4 trifecta 3,7 with 3,7 with 1,2,6 ($24)