A field of nine juvenile fillies will take to Los Alamitos’ main track on Saturday in the $300,000 Starlet Stakes (G1) going 1 1/16 miles.
The race is the final graded contest for juveniles, male or female, in 2016 and may help clarify the murky two-year-old filly division with the likes of Union Strike and American Gal taking part.
Both of those runners competed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) last out on November 5, finishing sixth and third, respectively. The race itself was upset by 33-1 shot Champagne Room with many of the major contenders for an Eclipse Award finishing off-the-board.
Union Strike was one of those contenders off her 2 1/4-length victory in the Del Mar Debutante (G1). The Union Rags filly actually broke her maiden in that seven-furlong affair and stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Breeders’ Cup. She’ll get another chance at a distance of ground in this spot with jockey Gary Stevens taking the reins.
American Gal brought a two-for-two record into the Breeders’ Cup, having broken her maiden by 2 1/4 lengths on August 14 at Del Mar before taking the Anoakia Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths over Santa Anita Park’s dirt. She, too, was trying something other than a sprint in the championship event and was sent off the 4-1 favorite.
However, the daughter of Concord Point suffered a terrible trip in the Breeders’ Cup, breaking awkwardly and running wide throughout. A better trip from returning jockey Mike Smith could see the Bob Baffert trainee return to the winner’s circle here.
Another of note in the Starlet is Berned, who will be starting outside of New York for the first time in this spot. The Tom Albertrani pupil didn’t compete in the Breeders’ Cup, instead staying in the Empire State to just miss by three parts of a length in the Tempted Stakes (G3) going a mile at Aqueduct. She gets Norberto Arroyo Jr. aboard Saturday.
Tapped is the only other Starlet runner with previous stakes experience. That came via a close runner-up effort in the Pike Place Dancer Stakes over Golden Gate Fields’ all-weather Tapeta on October 29. The Jerry Hollendorfer charge took her debut over Santa Anita’s main track 22 days earlier by a nose and gets a jockey switch to Kent Desormeaux.
Abel Tasman and Fact of Life broke their maidens two races back and then lined up against each other in a Del Mar allowance last out. The former got the win by a half-length over Fact of Life, and the duo will renew their budding rivalry in this spot under Joe Talamo and Stewart Elliott, respectively.
The Starlet field is completed by Go On Mary and Sandy’s Surprise, who just broke their maidens last out, and Mopotism, who is 2-0-1-0 thus far.
Union Strike photo courtesy of Benoit Photo
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