Friday, December 12, 2008

Laragh Faces a Promising Starlet Field

by Jack Shinar

Laragh can put a grade I exclamation point on a busy juvenile campaign when she faces six other fillies in the $429,500 Hollywood Starlet Dec. 13.

The gray/roan daughter of Tapit returns to Southern California for trainer John Terranova following her third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita Oct. 24. She switches from the grass to Hollywood Park's Cushion Track surface for the 1 1/16-mile Starlet. She is one of two stakes winners entered.

The other is Darley Stable's Pamona Ball, who won the Sharp Cat at the Starlet distance at Hollywood Park Nov. 1. Also in the field is Alpha Kitten, a highly regarded Jerry and Ann Moss homebred who is coming off a second-place finish as an odds-on choice in the Anoakia Stakes at Oak Tree, and the surprising Dave's Revenge. Trainer Bob Baffert has two entries -- Toro Bonito and Wynning Ride.

Laragh was to be shipped west for the second time this year Dec. 10 following a four-furlong breeze in :48 1/5 on the Belmont Park training track Dec. 9. Prior to the Breeders' Cup, she captured the 1 1/16-mile JP Morgan Chase Jessamine Stakes on the Keeneland lawn by nearly five lengths.

Named after a town in Ireland by breeder Mike Ryan, Laragh has won two of five starts and leads the field in earnings with $246,365. She began her career in Canada for trainer Mark Casse, breaking her maiden at second asking on Polytrack at Woodbine in August. She followed that with a fifth-place finish in the Natalma Stakes (Can-IIIT) in her first try on grass.

Laragh led all the way in both her victories and took the Juvenile Fillies Turf field into deep stretch while setting a rapid pace before being passed in the final strides.

She is co-owned by IEAH Stables, Gary Tolchin, and Pegasus Holdings, which purchased her privately after her maiden victory at Woodbine and transferred her to Terranova.

Edgar Prado, who has ridden Laragh in her last two outings, has the Starlet mount. They will break from post 2.

The Hollywood Starlet is featured on this week's edition of That Handicapping Show.
Pamona Ball comes into the Starlet with back-to-back wins for trainer Eoin Harty. The daughter of Pleasantly Perfect, a $380,000 Barretts purchase in March, broke her maiden going 1 1/16 miles in her third start by two lengths Oct. 10 at Santa Anita. She came right back to post a one-length win in the Sharp Cat, bidding along the inside to gain the lead in deep stretch.

“She didn’t have any trouble negotiating two turns in her last two starts," Harty said. "It’s just a big jump up in quality. Either she’s good enough or she isn’t.”

Rafael Bejarano, who won last year's Starlet aboard Country Star for trainer Bobby Frankel, has been aboard Pamona Ball in both of her victories.

Dave's Revenge comes out of a fourth-place finish in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), rallying from far back at odds of 64-1 to lose by three lengths to the victorious Stardom Bound. In her only other start, the Bob Hess Jr. trained daughter of The Cliff's Edge broke her maiden by 1 1/2 lengths in a one-mile race at Del Mar at 37-1.

"She was beaten three lengths in the Breeders' Cup and was an inch away from being grade I stakes-placed," said Hess. "She ran a fantastic race. She's a very good filly."

Based at Santa Anita, Dave's Revenge worked four furlongs at Hollywood Dec. 8 in :48 4/5. Kent Desormeaux, who has ridden three Starlet winners, will be aboard Dave's Revenge for the first time.

Dave's Revenge was purchased at the Keeneland 2007 September yearling sale for $45,000 by Dave Rippey of Del Mar.

"She was the second horse he ever bought," said Hess. "He was going through a divorce, and this was his revenge."

Like Dave's Revenge, Alpha Kitten has had two starts. The gray/roan daughter of Tale of the Cat broke her maiden in her debut at Del Mar for trainer John Sadler with a powerful late move prior to her runner-up effort in the Anoakia, in which she also rallied late. This will be her first try beyond six furlongs.

Mike Smith picked up the mount on Alpha Kitten in place of Tyler Baze, who suffered three broken ribs and a fractured shoulder in a spill at Hollywood Dec. 5. Alpha Kitten worked six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 at Santa Anita Dec. 6.

Baffert, seeking his third Starlet win and his first since Habibti in 2001, has a pair of live shots.

Toro Bonito, an El Corredor filly owned and bred by Hal and Patti Earnhardt, is making her fourth consecutive stakes appearance after breaking her maiden at Del Mar. In her last start, she finished second by one length to Pamona Ball in the Sharp Cat.

Wynning Ride, an Ontario-bred daughter of Candy Ride owned by Arnold Zetcher, came from far back to finish fourth in the seven-furlong Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Nov. 16. In her only other start, in which she ran for trainer Ron McAnally, she proved a handy maiden winner at Santa Anita.

The maiden Black Magic Mama, trained by Doug O'Neill for J. Paul Reddam, rounds out the field. Corey Nakatani, returning to action after sustaining a collarbone injury Sept. 24, has the ride.

$429,500 Hollywood Starlet (gr. I, Race 9, 4:35 p.m.), 2-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Toro Bonito (KY), David R. Flores
2. Laragh (KY), Edgar S. Prado
3. Alpha Kitten (KY), Mike E. Smith
4. Wynning Ride (ON), Joseph Talamo
5. Dave's Revenge (KY), Kent J. Desormeaux
6. Pamona Ball (KY), Rafael Bejarano
7. Black Magic Mama (FL), Corey S. Nakatani
Each assigned 120 pounds.

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