‘Grit And Toughness’ Have Propelled Come Dancing To Breeders’ Cup Swansong

Ending a career by winning a championship is a goal for many athletes, though only a select few have been able to conclude their career with a historic effort.

The ones who do stand out. Joe DiMaggio ending his career after winning his ninth World Series with the Yankees in 1951 is near the top of any going-out-on-top moments. Rocky Marciano capped his career the way he ended every single one of his professional bouts, with the then 32-year-old walking away after posting a 49-0 record and holding the heavyweight championship for nearly four years. Across other sports, from NFL Hall of Famer John Elway winning back-to-back Supers Bowls to NHL superstar Jean Béliveau winning his 10th Stanley Cup and taking off the sweater in 1971, there have been special finales.

On Saturday, Blue Devil Racing Stable’s Come Dancing will run the 19th and final race of a storied career that has already featured five graded stakes wins. The Carlos Martin trainee will look to give her connections one final memory when she competes in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint going seven furlongs on Keeneland Race Course’s main track.

The 6-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon has given owner Marc Holliday, and New York racing fans, plenty of thrills, starting with her 7 ¾-length romp in the 2019 Grade 3 Distaff at Aqueduct Racetrack, earning a 114 Beyer Speed Figure. From there, she dominated the Grade 2 Ruffian, winning the one-mile contest over a sloppy track by 6 ¾ lengths in May 2019. Her next start saw her run second to eventual Eclipse Award Champion Older Dirt Female Midnight Bisou in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day.

Not to be deterred, Come Dancing then rattled off back-to-back wins in the Grade 1 Ballerina in August 2019 at Saratoga Race Course before winning the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom back at Belmont. She capped her campaign with a sixth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita. In this year’s edition, she will face divisional contenders Gamine and Serengeti Empress among a formidable nine-horse field.

Martin said she handled the ship well from New York to the Bluegrass State, where she posted a three-furlong blowout in 36 seconds flat over Keeneland’s main track on Sunday.

“She seems like she’s handling her time at Keeneland and she’s enjoying herself. Her coat looks great,” Martin said. “My team has done a great job helping me to get her to this point, so I’m really happy about everything.”

A great career almost was derailed after her winning debut as a juvenile in November 2016 at the Big A. Working toward her potential stakes debut in the Grade 2 Demoiselle she suffered a fractured pastern in her right front leg. Come Dancing did not race again until 13 months later, when she bested allowance company in December 2017 at Aqueduct.

That came as a relief to Holliday, who is a NYRA Board Member and the Chairman and CEO of SL Green Realty Corp, a New York City commercial real estate firm.

“I was fairly optimistic that she would race again,” Holliday said to the Thoroughbred Daily News last year. “The question was would she race up to her potential because we knew she had a ton of potential. She had a brilliant first race. To do what she’s done since the injury is a testament to her grit and toughness and her ability to rebound from that injury.”

Come Dancing not only rebounded from that setback, she thrived, and that success continued in her current campaign, which included a second-place effort in the Grade 3 Vagrancy over a Belmont track rated good on Belmont Stakes Day in June and her first win of 2020 last out with a three-quarter-length score in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap over Lady’s Island in the six-furlong sprint at Saratoga on September 6.

The millionaire mare will retire to become a broodmare following Saturday’s race, but she has one more chance to compete at the highest level during the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. She drew post 3 with jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., who was aboard for the Honorable Miss, back in the irons. She is listed at 8-1 on the morning line with Gamine from post 2 the 7-5 favorite.

“It’s bittersweet because it’s her last dance, but she’s been so good to us, so we just want to see her go off on a high note and show the world what she can do on the biggest stage, so we’re excited for the opportunity,” Martin said. “I think the post should be fine. She usually breaks pretty well. With Serengeti and Gamine going out there, she should be able to find a spot. I don’t think there’s a chance of us going up there with them [as a pacesetter], but I’ll let Irad ride the race and hopefully have them set the table for us.

“We have a champion jockey and I think the instructions kind of go out the window in a race like this,” he added.

A victory would give both Martin and Holliday their first respective career wins in a Breeders’ Cup. It would also allow Come Dancing to follow in the path of past champions with a sunset ride enmeshed in glory.

The post ‘Grit And Toughness’ Have Propelled Come Dancing To Breeders’ Cup Swansong appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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