With no Sweet Catomine to be concerned with, Peter Vegso's homebred Splendid Blended was the star of Sunday's $389,000 Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies.
The Florida-bred daughter of Unbridled's Song
put away pacesetter No Bull Baby coming away from the quarter pole and, with jockey Kent Desormeaux doing little more than showing her the whip down the lane, she was clearly the best while holding off Sharp Lisa by two lengths. Northern Mischief finished third.
Neil Drysdale trains Splendid Blended, who returned from a second-place finish behind Sweet Catomine in the Oak Leaf (gr. II) in October to register an impressive allowance win in her last start, Nov. 14 at Hollywood Park. The 6-5 choice in the field of seven Sunday, she has been heavily favored in all four of her starts.
Drysdale said the filly wasn't ready for the Breeders' Cup this year.
"She's learning," Drysdale said. "The more she races, the more settled she will become. She's getting better all the time. She came into heat three days ago, so that was a concern. And some fillies can run when they're in heat and others can't ... but I guess she can.
"I think this filly warrants going on to the (Kentucky) Oaks. I'll talk to Mr. Vegso, but I'd say we'll aim her for the Oaks. I mean this was a-mile-and-a-sixteenth, I don't think she'll have trouble going a-mile-and-an-eighth. I'll talk to him and we'll figure out a campaign. But I don't think she'll have a problem going nine furlongs."
Drysdale also trains the impressive 2-year-old colt Fusaichi Samurai, a top Kentucky Derby (gr. I) candidate who made an impressive debut at the Hollywood Park fall meet, giving the Hall of Fame conditioner plenty of reasons to be excited about next season. It was his eighth win of the Hollywood meet, which ends Monday.
"She was just cantering along, very composed in her stride," said Desormeaux. "It was Merry Christmas to me from Neil."
The final time of 1:41 4/5 for the 1 1/16-mile Starlet tied the stakes mark set by Serena's Song in 1994. It was the first stakes victory for the highly talented chestnut.
Splendid Blended's only loss in her four-race career came when she was second as the favorite to Sweet Catomine, the undoubtable 2004 Eclipse Award winner as the outstanding 2-year-old filly, in the Oak Leaf.
Starting from the extreme outside, Splendid Blended broke well enough for Desormeaux to establish herself in second place while racing three wide on the outside of No Bull Baby and Rene Douglas. Desormeaux bided his time through quick fractions of :23 3/5 and :46 4/5 before moving up on the far turn and taking the lead shortly after they completed six furlongs in 1:11.
"Although she was head-and-head early, she was actually quite comfortable," Desormeaux said. "She was a little aggressive around the first bend, but she settled quite nicely down the backside. I think she is just a marvelous talent."
Sharp Lisa, who was third while tracking the leaders evenly with Northern Mischief on her inside, responded when called upon by Corey Nakatani for the stretch run, but she failed to catch the leader while pulling clear of Northern Mishief by two lengths.
Nakatani said the speed bias was too much for his filly to overcome.
"I was right where I wanted to be, but with the way the track is now, we couldn't get there," he said.
No Bull Baby, another three lengths behind, held on fourth. Charming Colleen, Kenza and Memorette trailed.
The victory was worth $233,400 to Vegso, who produced Splendid Blended from the dam Valid Blend (Valid Appeal). She earned $327,400 in her 2-year-old campaign. It was the first Grade I victory for Vegso, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, and owns a publishing company that produces the "Chicken Soup" book series.
The winner paid $4.60, $2.60 and $2.40. Sharp Lisa, who lost to Sweet Catomine by 7 1/4 lengths while finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) in her last start, returned $2.60 and $2.40 as the 8-5 second choice. Northern Mischief, ridden by Gary Stevens, was worth $3.40 to show and the $2 exacta paid $11.