Favored Stars to Shine, making her second start of the year, overcame some traffic issues to run down pacesetter Hooh Why in the stretch, winning the $151,072 Ontario Matron Stakes (Can-III) July 22 at Woodbine (VIDEO).
A lightly raced 5-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat , Stars to Shine notched her first graded stakes score with Alex Solis aboard for trainer Mark Frostad and owner The Grange House Partnership. The one-length tally over Hooh Why comes after her win in the Trillium Stakes in her seasonal debut June 24 at Woodbine.
Stars to Shine, who bounced off the fence leaving the far turn in the Matron, is now 4-for-4 in her career on Woodbine's Polytrack. Prior to the Trillium, the dark bay or brown mare had been out of action for eight months after being injured in a fifth-place finish in the Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Tomoko Uenaka bred Stars to Shine, who is out of the Silver Hawk mare Gaily Lady, in Kentucky.
Stars to Shine, the 6-5 favorite in the field of eight older fillies and mares, completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.04.
Second choice Smart Penny was declared a non-starter when she was fractious in her starting stall and was deemed by stewards to have not received a fair start when the gates opened.
Million-dollar earner Hooh Why, taking advantage of a Matron lineup without much speed, was able to dictate the pace under jockey Ronald Allen Jr.
Stars to Shine, hugging the rail, raced in third with Ima Soul Miss second on the outside. The opening quarter mile went in :25.26, the half in :50.06, and six furlongs in 1:14.06.
Hooh Why enjoyed a comfortable advantage at the top of the stretch when Stars to Shine hit the rail while attempting to challenge along the inside. Stars to Shine, angled out a bit by Solis, regained her best stride approaching mid-stretch and collared the weakening Hooh Why in deep stretch to win edging away.
Solis was content with his ground-saving trip in spite being squeezed at the top of the stretch.
"I was trying to save as much ground as I could, and wait as long as I could," said Solis. "Unfortunately, (Hooh Why) stayed out, and when I tried to get through she came in and squeezed me a little bit. That's racing."
Frostad admitted he was concerned about the slow pace set by Hooh Why.
"Absolutely, especially when you're down on the rail," said Frostad. "If they come up on the outside of you and get you trapped in there, it can be pretty difficult. Fortunately, Alex had her in good position and made the move when he needed to."
Hooh Why held second by a neck over Ariana D, who closed well while very wide in the stretch for Omar Moreno after tracking the pace on the outside all the way. Bear It's Time, making her first start since last October, ran on from last for fourth, followed by Rock the Moon, Ima Soul Miss, Maristar, and Rashnaa.
Stars to Shine won for the sixth time in 12 lifetime starts and increased her earnings to $390,627 with the winner's share of $88,866.
Carrying co-high weight of 121 pounds, Stars to Shine paid $4.40, $2.70, $2.30. Hooh Why returned $3.30 and $2.50 in her first start for trainer Mark Hoffman. The exacta was worth $15. Ariana D, who finished third for the fourth consecutive time (all in graded stakes), paid $3.20 to show.