Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won his sixth consecutive Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos last Saturday (Dec. 10), but the streak nearly came to an end. Baffert-trained Faiza had to work hard in the Grade I affair, prevailing by just a head at the end of a prolonged stretch duel with Pride of the Nile.
Installed as the 7-5 favorite on Ed Burgart’s Starlet morning line, Faiza never came close to being even money or higher. The Kentucky-bred Girvin filly opened at 1-9 on the board and closed at 1-2. Pride of the Nile ran second at 12-1 while finishing 5 1/2 lengths clear of 4-1 Uncontrollable, who finished third. Doinitthehardway, also trained by Baffert, ended up fourth in the field of six 2-year-old fillies.
The stewards conducted an inquiry into an incident at the head of the long stretch. At the top of the lane, Pride of the Nile (inside), Doinitthehardway (between) and Faiza (outside) were battling for the lead. Pride of the Nile came out and bumped Doinitthehardway. However, as noted in Equibase’s Starlet chart, the stewards ruled that the incident “did not warrant a disqualification and no change would be made.”
A lot was being asked of Faiza. Prior to the 1 1/16-mile Starlet, Faiza had started only once, winning a six-furlong maiden race by 3 1/2 lengths as a 4-5 favorite at Del Mar on Nov. 12.
Faiza’s final time was 1:44.49. Her Beyer Speed Figure was a modest 77, a bit of a jump from the 74 Beyer that she received at first asking. Keep in mind that Faiza’s 77 Beyer still was higher than the 70 recorded by Julia Shining when she won Aqueduct’s Grade II Demoiselle Stakes by a neck on a sloppy track Dec. 3. Also, Faiza’s 77 Beyer is not all that much lower than Wonder Wheel’s 83 when she won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland on Nov. 4.
Even though Faiza’s winning margin was small and her Beyer was nothing to rave about, Baffert believes the inexperienced youngster has much potential. Baffert told me that Faiza “had no idea what was happening” in the Starlet and that “she is really talented.” Baffert went on to say that Faiza “learned a lot” from this race.
Ridden by Flavien Prat, Faiza was a $725,000 auction purchase and races for Michael Lund Petersen. Petersen owned Gamine, who was voted a 2020 Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter when trained by Baffert.
This was Baffert’s record ninth Starlet victory. He previously won it with Excellent Meeting (1998), Habibti (2001), Streaming (2013), Dream Tree (2017), Chasing Yesterday (2018), Bast (2019), Varda (2020) and Eda (2021).
By the way, even though Starlet runner-up Pride of the Nile did not win the Starlet, she ran a big race. Not only was this her first try on dirt, she stumbled badly at the start and lost in a photo finish.
Pride of the Nile had started in three straight one-mile grass races before switching to dirt in the Starlet. She ran fourth in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf on Sept. 10, won a maiden race at Santa Anita on Oct. 2, then won an allowance/optional claiming race at Del Mar on Nov. 12.
Based on Pride of the Nile’s fine effort last Saturday, one suspects the Starlet won’t be the last time we see her race on dirt.
WINNING BEYERS FOR THE STARLET
Below are the Beyers for winners of the Starlet going back to 1991 (the first year the figures were listed in the American Racing Manual):
2022 Faiza (74)
2021 Eda (76)
2020 Varda (68)
2019 Bast (89)
2018 Chasing Yesterday (82)
2017 Dream Team (81)
2016 Abel Tasman (84)
2015 Street Fancy (74)
2014 Take Charge Brandi (87)
2013 Streaming (81)
2012 Pure Fun (88)
2011 Killer Graces (81)
2010 Turbulent Descent (94)
2009 Blind Luke (93)
2008 Laragh (89)
2007 Country Star (93)
2006 Romance Is Diane (85)
2005 Diplomat Lady (89)
2004 Splendid Blended (92)
2003 Hollywood Story (95)
2002 Elloluv (94)
2001 Habibti (104)
2000 I Believe in You (90)
1999 Surfside (100)
1998 Excellent Meeting (101)
1997 Love Lock (98)
1996 Sharp Cat (92)
1995 Cara Rafaela (104)
1994 Serena’s Song (103)
1993 Sardula (98)
1992 Creaking Board (83)
1991 Magical Maiden (94)
Run at Hollywood Park, 1981-2013. Run at Los Alamitos, 2014-2022.
DOES NEW STREAK BEGIN IN FUTURITY?
The Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity, which like the Starlet previously had been run at Hollywood Park, has drawn five entrants for its 2022 renewal this Saturday (Dec. 17). Heading the field is Baffert-trained Arabian Lion, who is ranked No. 3 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week.
Below are my selections for the Los Alamitos Futurity:
1. Arabian Lion
2. Fort Bragg
3. Practical Move
4. Carmel Road
Arabian Lion won a six-furlong maiden race by three lengths as a 3-5 favorite when unveiled at Santa Anita on Oct. 9. The Kentucky-bred colt by Triple Crown winner Justify then ran too good to lose when he finished second in a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming contest at Keeneland on Nov. 4.
Giant Mischief, trained by Brad Cox, won that Nov. 4 race by three-quarters of a length while recording a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. Arabian Lion was credited with a 93 Beyer while finishing a whopping 17 1/2 lengths clear of third.
Speaking of Giant Mischief, he is No. 6 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt is entered in Saturday’s Springboard Mile at Remington Park.
Echo Again, No. 8 on my Top 10, also is entered in the Springboard Mile, which has attracted a field of nine 2-year-olds.
In my horse racing fantasy league draft on Nov. 21, I had hoped to get Arabian Lion with the No. 48 pick. Arabian Lion stayed on the board all the way until he was taken right before me at No. 47. With Arabian Lion gone, I took Echo Again at No. 48.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Echo Again made quite a splash when debuting at Saratoga on Aug. 20. The Kentucky-bred Gun Runner colt won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race by 6 3/4 lengths as a 3-5 favorite and recorded a 94 Beyer, a figure higher than highly regarded Extra Anejo’s 92 in his debut victory.
When Echo Again was next seen under silks, he again was bet down to 3-5 favoritism, this time in the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 17. He finished seventh and lost by 14 lengths.
It looked like Echo Again probably was on his way to regaining his winning ways at Churchill Downs on Oct. 30, but an incident that occurred during the race caused it to be called off.
“The eighth race at Churchill Downs Oct. 30 was called off in mid-race after jockey Alex Achard was injured in a one-horse spill entering the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile race on a sloppy track,” BloodHorse’s Byron King wrote. “Achard was aboard Storyteller Racing and Schroeck Racing’s Paddock Boss, who fell when in tight quarters among a bunched field in the early stages of the allowance/optional claiming race for 2-year-olds, unseating his jockey.”
Getting back to the Hollywood Futurity/Los Alamitos Futurity, Baffert has won it a record 13 times (Real Quiet in 1997, Captain Steve in 1999, Point Given in 2000, Pioneerof the Nile in 2008, Lookin At Lucky in 2009, Liaison in 2011, Dortmund in 2014, Mor Spirit in 2015, Mastery in 2016, McKinzie in 2017 via the disqualification of Solomoni, Improbable in 2018, Thousand Words in 2019, Spielberg in 2020 and Slow Down Andy in 2021).
When 5-1 Slow Down Andy registered a one-length victory at the direct expense of Baffert-trained even-money favorite Messier last year, it snapped Baffert’s remarkable streak of seven Los Alamitos Futurity wins in a row.
In addition to Arabian Lion, Baffert will be represented in this year’s Los Al Futurity by Carmel Road and Fort Bragg.
Carmel Road tries to rebound after finishing 13th in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 8, a race in which he had had the misfortune to get post 14. Prior to that, the Kentucky-bred Quality Road colt had started twice at Del Mar. Carmel Road finished third in a five-furlong maiden sprint on Aug. 6, then won a one-mile maiden race by 8 3/4 lengths on Aug. 26.
Fort Bragg finished third when kicking off his racing career in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race at Del Mar on Sept. 10. The winner was Baffert-trained Speed Boat Beach, who broke the track record.
In Fort Bragg’s second start, he finished first by 1 1/2 lengths when stretched out to one mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 10. However, he was appropriately disqualified and placed second for causing interference. The Kentucky-bred Tapit colt then did earn his maiden diploma when he prevailed by three-quarters of a length in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.
KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10: CHANGE AT THE TOP
I predicted two weeks ago that Extra Anejo would win the Triple Crown next year. I made that prediction after Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh reported on Nov. 30 that Fair Grounds’ 1 1/16-mile Gun Runner Stakes was the “most likely” spot for Extra Anejo’s second race, according to his trainer.
I wrote last week that I had become concerned “something might possibly be amiss” with Extra Anejo. I noted that the lack of a published workout by the Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt since his :59.40 bullet drill at Churchill Downs on Nov. 15 made me wonder just how “likely” it was that he would be running in the Gun Runner.
We now know that there was indeed something amiss with Extra Anejo, who won’t be running in the Gun Runner or anything else in the near future.
“Highly promising 2-year-old colt Extra Anejo has been taken out of training because of an injury, trainer Steve Asmussen reported,” Hersh wrote last Sunday (Dec. 11).
“He has a small chip in a hind ankle,” Asmussen said. “It’s not ideal timing. The prognosis is good, but it’s not the timing anybody wants.”
Hersh wrote that “Extra Anejo already has undergone surgery to remove the chip. If all goes well, he’ll be back at Asmussen’s barn at Fair Grounds early in January.”
With the unsettling news that Extra Anejo has had ankle surgery, he exits my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week. That means I have a new No. 1 in Baffert-trained Arabian Knight, who was a dazzling 7 1/4-length winner in a seven-furlong maiden race at Keeneland on Nov. 5, his only start to date. The Kentucky-bred Uncle Mo colt worked four furlongs in :48.20 at Santa Anita on Wednesday (Dec. 14).
1. Arabian Knight
3. Arabian Lion
4. Cave Rock
6. Giant Mischief
7. National Treasure
8. Echo Again
9. Instant Coffee