Hipster: “One who strives to do anything that isn’t considered mainstream solely to look different and hip”

Truth is, the point of horse racing is to be a hipster – to like a horse that nobody else likes, though our purpose is usually to get higher odds on the horse we like. Admit it, there is also a certain satisfaction in being able to say “I knew that horse was going to be special as soon as he stepped onto the track for his debut.” As such, I would like to introduce you to a filly that I believe could satisfy that desire to know a good horse before it becomes a good horse.

Her name is Villanesca and she is a lightly raced 3-year-old filly for Darley Stable and Kiaran McLaughlin who I believe will only get better with age and experience. She debuted on August 30th in a Saratoga Maiden Special Weight. She trailed throughout while ridden along, but made up a little bit of ground late to finish 5th. It was an unexceptional performance but a decent debut effort.

Villanesca returned at Belmont Park on September 21st with a much improved effort. She lunged at the break but jockey Eddie Castro got her into a stalking position sitting third on the outside. Pacesetter It’s Saturday Nite shook free of the competition when coming into the stretch, and it looked like she was going to go gate-to-wire as Villanesca ran second but seemed unable to make up significant ground. However, favorite Greed and Fear came up on Villanesca’s outside, causing the Darley filly to re-engage and battle on to prevail by a head in a three-horse photo.

While usually a close photo finish does not indicate a field full of talent, I liked the tenacity that Villanesca showed in the race. Additionally, Greed and Fear returned to break her maiden at Belmont in her next start, and the only other filly to come back out of the race – 6th-place finisher Alexandra’s Grace – also returned to win in her subsequent effort.

What I really like about Villanesca, however, is her pedigree. She is a Darley homebred by Distorted Humor and out of a mare named Balletto. Balletto won over a million dollars in 12 starts, beginning her career with two consecutive wins and then finishing second to Sense of Style in the Matron Stakes (G1). She would then win the Frizette Stakes (G1) before finishing second to Sweet Catomine in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). Balletto did not race again until March of her 4-year-old season, when she was fourth to Take D’Tour in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. That would be the only off-the-board finish in her career.

Balletto subsequently finished 2nd to Take D’Tour in the Shuvee Handicap (G2), and third to that rival in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1). At Saratoga in 2006, she just missed winning the Go For Wand Handicap (G1) when closing from last to be beaten a nose by Spun Sugar, and then finished second to Fleet Indian in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1). She was only beaten a head by that mare when finishing second again in the Beldame Stakes (G1), and closed her career with a 3rd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), following the disqualification of Asi Siempre for bothering Balletto in the stretch.

Balletto only has one other foal to race, a 2-year-old gelding named Puget Sound who finished 7th in his only start on September 1st at Saratoga. Her 2008 foal, an A.P. Indy filly named Eleganter, is unraced.

Villanesca will be making the third start of her career this Friday, October 26th, in the 8th race at Belmont Park.

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