Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred Highway Star prevailed by a neck in Sunday’s $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park with jockey Luis Saez taking the mount for injured regular rider Angel Arroyo.
Lucy N Ethel broke on top and proceeded to lead the way while tracked by Quezon to her inside. Even-money favorite Carina Mia and Highway Star ran in tandem just behind those two. Lucy N Ethel pulled away slightly and angled closer to the rail, leaving Quezon to trail behind with Carina Mia moving up to keep her company. Absatootly ran outside and Highway Star dropped back to last in the close-knit group with Friend of Liberty trailing in last.
Carina Mia began her move nearing the turn and joined Lucy N Ethel up front midway around the bend. Highway Star found herself between Quezon and Absatootly, patiently waiting for a hole to open up. Carina Mia finally wrested the lead away from Lucy N Ethel in the stretch, but Highway Star had found her opening and was hot on her tail.
Highway Star reeled in Carina Mia and took a short lead, holding it to the wire to finish 6 1/2 furlongs over the fast main track in 1:16.91. Carina Mia took second by a half-length over Quezon, who closed up the rail and was followed under the line by Absatootly, Friend of Liberty and Lucy N Ethel.
Highway Star paid $6.20 as the 2-1 second choice in the short six-distaffer field, and improved her career record to read 13-8-1-2, $969,000. The Girolamo four-year-old added this score to earlier wins in the Distaff Handicap (G3) and Ruffian Stakes (G3) this season, as well as a pair of placings in the Ballerina Stakes (G1) and Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1).
Trainer Rodrigo Ubillo indicated Highway Star, who also captured last year’s Go for Wand Handicap (G3), could make her next start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) on November 4 at Del Mar.
Bred in New York, Highway Star is out of the multiple stakes-placed Cat Thief mare Stolen Star and counts as her fourth dam multiple Grade 1 winner Taisez Vous.
GALLANT BLOOM QUOTES
Luis Saez, jockey Highway Star, winner
“They told me to break and see how I was and go from there and see what happens. I was a little worried because I had the one-hole and I knew everyone was going to come down and we’d be stuck down (on the rail). As soon as I got the opportunity, I came out and followed the filly for Javier (Castellano aboard Carina Mia). When we came into the stretch, she took off.”
Rodrigo Ubillo, trainer Highway Star, winner
“She broke good and then something happened on the backside so she fell back a little bit farther back than I wanted her to. Luis (Saez) then took her to the outside and she made a little ground and by the end of the race she came on again to finish strong.
“She trains here and I gallop her in the mornings and you can tell she really loves this track. Unfortunately, Angel (Arroyo) took a spill a couple of days ago and he wasn’t ready. Luis is his cousin and he talked to him about the filly, so I felt pretty good.”