Anstu Stables' homebred Balto Star swept by Bonapaw in the stretch en route to a 2 1/4-length victory in Sunday's $125,000 Whirlaway Handicap (gr. III) at Fair Grounds.
Bonapaw set a moderate early pace while establishing a five-length lead over Balto Star, his closest pursuer. Balto Star inched up to just over four lengths back after a half-mile run in :47.88, but Fighting Indians had moved up into second, a head-length in front of Balto Star. Second betting choice Mineshaft raced in fourth, 1 1/2 lengths farther back. Jockey Eddie Martin Jr. moved Balto Star into contention outside of Bonapaw and established a one-length lead over the pacesetter with Mineshaft closing in the middle of the track. Balto Star easily held off Mineshaft to win by 2 1/2 lengths, completing the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.74 on a fast track. Bonapaw came home less than a length farther back in third, with Easyfromthegitgo, Discreet Hero, Connected, Fighting Indians, and Deferred Comp completing the order of finish.
"He did a great job," said Michael McCarthy, who saddled the horse for trainer Todd Pletcher. "We wanted to rate him today and I know Todd was disappointed with his last race on the turf (Appleton Handicap). This was a good spot for him and he did a great job."
The race marks Balto Star's first race at the New Orleans oval and his first stakes win since completing a sweep of the Turfway Spiral Stakes (gr. II) and Arkansas Derby (gr. II) in 2001.
"He took to the track well," said Martin. "Our strategy was let the deuce (Bonapaw) go out on the lead and just rate second. I didn't want to make a move until Bonapaw started to back up."
Balto Star (Glitterman--Miss Livi, by Devil's Bag) earned $75,000 for the win, his eighth in 22 career starts. (Chart, Equibase