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Marley's Freedom Punches Breeders' Cup Ticket in G1 Ballerina

by New York Racing Association Press Release

August 25, 2018

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Cicero Farm's Marley's Freedom gave the Hall of Fame jockey-trainer team of Mike Smith and Bob Baffert their second straight stakes win on the Travers undercard posting a 3 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina for filly and mare sprinters on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Breaking from post 7, Smith sat patiently aboard the post-time favorite on the backstretch while Grade 2 Honorable Miss winner Finley'sluckycharm took a slight lead in the field of eight, covering a quarter-mile in 23.11 seconds and a half in 45.44. Lewis Bay challenged the leader as the field reached the turn, but it was Marley's Freedom who came with a serious, five-wide move to hit the front at the top of the lane. 

The 4-year-old Blame filly dispelled her competition and drew off in the final sixteenth of a mile, completing the seven-furlong sprint in 1:21.39.

"Winning her last two races was pretty impressive," said Baffert, who won the Grade 1 Personal Ensign one race earlier with Smith and Abel Tasman. "The quality is there and you have to come to Saratoga if you are looking for a championship. That is why I brought her, to see how she fits [and] this is a pretty good field.

"[It was an] unbelievable race today," he added. "When I saw her at the top of the stretch on the outside, I felt pretty good. She had an extra gear, that's how she works. She and Abel have been working unbelievably. I didn't think she would win by that far."

Still There recovered from a stumble at the break to finish a strong-closing second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Lewis Bay in third. Union Strike, Ivy Bell, Tequilita, Finley'sluckycharm, and Cairenn completed the order of finish. Highway Star was scratched.

Favored at 9-5, Marley's Freedom returned $5.80 for a $2 win wager. 

The victory was the fourth in a row for Marley's Freedom this spring, beginning with a 2 ¼-length optional claiming win in April while under the care of trainer Bob Hess. She moved to Baffert's barn soon after and quickly registered wins in the Grade 3 Desert Stormer and the Grade 2 Great Lady M.

"When I got her, she was in great shape," said Baffert. "She just came off a very big impressive win and I really can't take a lot of credit for that. She came to me in great shape, and running really well and I just kept her in that form."

In addition to an all-fees-paid berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on November 3 at Churchill Downs, the Ballerina improved her record to six wins and two seconds from 12 career starts for earnings of $628,000.