The Feb. 22 Buena Vista (G2) furnished the key pointers to Santa Anita’s Memorial Day turf stakes for distaffers. Buena Vista upsetter Keeper Ofthe Stars continued her ascent in the turf female division in Monday’s $302,500 Gamely (G1), about three hours after the beaten Buena Vista favorite, Jolie Olimpica, rebounded in the Monrovia (G2).
Keeper Ofthe Stars was capping a four-win day for jockey Abel Cedillo, while handing trainer Jonathan Wong his first Grade 1 laurel. The Tommy Town Thoroughbreds runner was not overlooked at 36-1 like last time, but she still proved value at 7-1 for her loyalists.
Bettors preferred the Chad Brown shippers, sending off Etoile as the 17-10 favorite in her U.S. debut. The French recruit didn’t land a blow from far back, and her stablemate, 3.40-1 second choice Beautiful Lover, settled for fourth in a finish dominated by local trainees. Not among them was Ollie’s Candy, who scratched in favor of sticking to dirt for Sunday’s Santa Maria (G2).
Cedillo engineered a textbook trip aboard Keeper Ofthe Stars. Breaking from the far outside post 10, the Midnight Lute filly had the tactical speed to secure good position, then relaxed nicely in a stalking third.
The other gray, Giza Goddess, led through fractions :23.22, :47.20, and 1:11.03 on the firm course. Tiny Tina, her nearest pursuer, inched closer down the backstretch, but Giza Goddess responded to stay clear. Rounding the far turn, Tiny Tina took another run at the pacesetter, who was still finding into the stretch.
But Keeper Ofthe Stars was ranging up menacingly on the outside. Sweeping past the duelists and opening up by 1 1/4 lengths, she finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.43.
The 14-1 Bodhicitta rallied late to snatch second from the inconvenienced Mucho Unusual. That third-placer had been traveling conspicuously well in the pocket behind the leaders, but lost momentum when having to switch around Keeper Ofthe Stars. Although Mucho Unusual still picked up strongly, and Bodhicitta just mugged her, it’s worth wondering if a cleaner passage made the difference.
Beautiful Lover was a half-length up on fifth Lady Prancealot. Giza Goddess, who tired to sixth, at least prevailed by a neck in her battle with Tiny Tina. Etoile showed late interest to improve from last into eighth, overtaking Simply Breathless and Siberian Iris.
“She’s better if somebody is in front of her – she likes to follow,” Cedillo noted. “If she has a target she is better. Last time I rode her in the Grade 2 (Buena Vista) I noticed that, so I tried to do the same thing today. I think this was her best race.”
Keeper Ofthe Stars’ scorecard stands at 15-7-1-3, $501,931. Her first stakes score came in last fall’s Autumn Miss (G3), following fourths in the San Clemente (G2) and Del Mar Oaks (G1). A runner-up effort in the Dec. 28 Lady of Shamrock was bookended by sixths in the Red Carpet (G3) and Megahertz (G3), but the maturing 4-year-old is now putting it all together.
Bred by Olin Gentry, Omar Trevino, and Anthony Cappola in Kentucky, Keeper Ofthe Stars is out of Sociable, a half-sister (by Run Away and Hide) to multiple Grade 1 hero and sire The Factor. Keeper Ofthe Stars, who first sold for $60,000 as a weanling at Keeneland November, went to her current connections for $180,000 at the same venue the following September.
Wong celebrated their breakthrough while looking forward to the future.
“I’m over the moon right now! I’m really speechless. This is my first Grade 1, so I’m off the schneid! Now that she’s learned to relax, the sky’s the limit with her.
“Kristin Mulhall is overseeing everything down there and she deserves all the credit, along with the whole crew,” added Wong, who’s headquartered at Golden Gate Fields.
“This filly had been training so well and she got an amazing ride from Abel, he couldn’t have ridden her any better. She’s a really good filly. I thought she could’ve won a couple of those graded stakes at Del Mar, but her best races are in front of her. I couldn’t be any prouder.”