Come Dancing attempts second Ballerina success

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Carlos Martin feels Come Dancing is in good shape ahead of her attempt to become only the second multiple winner of the Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday.

A Grade 1 event worth $300,000, the Ballerina is part of a star-studded racecard at Saratoga set to be headlined by the Travers Stakes and offering close to $2m in total prize money on the day.

It will be the 42nd running of the seven-furlong Ballerina for older fillies and mares and, before now, only Shine Again in 2001 and 2002 for late Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens has managed to win the race a second time.

The Ballerina also serves as a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Keeneland in early November.

Martin admits it would be a ‘dream’ to see his star turn winning a second Ballerina and he says her preparation for the race couldn’t have gone any better since she finished second behind fellow Ballerina contender Victim Of Love in the Grade 3 Vagrancy at Belmont Park in late June.

“She really seems like she’s thriving. She loves Saratoga. She’s put on some weight since her last race and everything has gone pretty good,” Martin said.

“We haven’t had any setbacks, haven’t missed any training, so I’m excited about the opportunity for her to do something special and hopefully get back-to-back Ballerinas. That would be like a dream.”

Jerkens, fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas (1985-86), and Todd Pletcher (2011-12) are the only trainers previously to have won the Ballerina Stakes in successive years and Martin would love to emulate their feats.

Martin’s late father, Jose, was a Grade 1-winning trainer in his time and he knows the history of the sport. He’s also the grandson of late Hall of Famer Frank ‘Pancho’ Martin, leading trainer in New York ten years on the trot from 1973 on and best-known for handling Sham, runner-up to Secretariat in the 1973 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Keeping the family tradition intact is a source of pride, though Martin doesn’t cast himself into the same class as his father and grandfather.

“It’s always exciting when you win a big race, especially at Saratoga with so much tradition and so many special times growing up, watching my father with Groovy win back-to-back Foregos and my grandfather and all the success they had here for years,” Martin said.

“It helps validate that the Martin name is still around. Unfortunately, they’re not around anymore.

“I’m never going to be the trainer they were; they trained six champions between them. I’m not trying to be them, but I just like the fact that the name is still out there and hopefully they’re looking down somewhat proud and we can keep it going.”