The daughter of 1995 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Thunder Gulch established herself as a major contender for the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) on Dec. 18 with her second victory in three starts. She has actually reached the finish first in each of her races, but she was disqualified from first to third in the Hidden Light Stakes at Santa Anita Park earlier this month.Balance, owned by John and Jerry Amerman and trained by David Hofmans, covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.58 while paying $5.80, $3.60, and $3. Sweet Fourty, who closed for second money under Javier Santiago, returned $10.40 and $6.40. Talullah Lula, third with Garrett Gomez up, paid $3.80.
"She's real good, she likes the dirt," Hofmans said. "There was some question to some people, but she trained well over it, so we knew she liked it. (Thunder Gulch) was all right on it. I guess the next step will be the Starlet."
Balance, who was a handful as Espinoza tried to keep her back of leader Make Mine Minnie in the early going, went to the lead on the backstretch and was never seriously threatened."I really liked the way she ran today," Espinoza said. "Her first time on dirt, I was really impressed by her."Balance, who collected $60,000 to boost her earnings to $92,100, left little doubt of the outcome in the stretch."I thought I had a good shot to win the race entering the stretch, but when Victor asked his filly the last sixteenth of a mile, she started getting away from us," Santiago said of the runner-up. "I thought she ran a great second."(Chart, Equibase)