With first-hand knowledge of how the Aqueduct turf course drains following a period of wet weather, Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado was an indispensable ally for Juddmonte Farms' homebred Starformer in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap.
Keeping the four-year-old well off the rail over soft ground, Prado nursed the filly through pokey splits of :25 1/5, :52 1/5, 1:18, 1:43 and 2:07 3/5. In the stretch, Starformer gamely held off an inside bid from Mystical Star to hang on for the neck victory in a time of 2:33 for 1 1/2 miles.
"It's been raining and snowing, and a lot of the water goes to the inside," Prado said. "I had the number 1 post position, so I had to come running out of there and take her to the outside. It seemed like the plan worked out beautiful. She was happy up there, enjoying the trip, and when the other horse came to her she felt the other horse and picked it up at the end. Me and her, we get along pretty good."
The 8-1 co-fifth choice in a field of eight, Starformer returned $18, $9.30 and $5.90.
Third choice Mystical Star rated in fourth in behind the winner most of the way, moved to a path closer to the rail three furlongs out, but couldn't quite get past the winner despite a strong stretch bid. It was a half-length farther back to the three-year-olds Aigue Marine and Tannery, who were separated by a nose while racing well out on the course.
Completing the order of finish were 2011 Long Island winner Hit It Rich, Senada, 8-5 favorite Kissable, and The West Rim. Scratched from the field were Clarinet and main-track-only entrant Centring.
Initially campaigned in France, Starformer won once in four starts overseas and placed a close third in the Group 3 Prix Vantaux. She joined the Bill Mott barn last year, running third and fourth in a pair of overnight stakes at Saratoga before shutting down for the season.
Starformer reappeared at Gulfstream in January, finishing second in an allowance before beating a field of similar quality by three lengths going 1 3/8 miles in her next start. Subsequently last in a dirt allowance at Churchill Downs, Starformer rebounded to take the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park in wire-to-wire fashion. In her last two outings, Starformer ran second in the Waya at Saratoga and fourth in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland. Her record now stands at 13-4-2-3, $349,794.
Adaughter of Dynaformer, Starformer was produced by the French Group 1 winner Etoile Montante, a daughter of Miswaki. She hails from the extended family of multiple Grade 1 winners Sightseek and Tates Creek.
Starformer's fourth dam was 1974 champion three-year-old filly Chris Evert, whose descendants include juvenile champion Chief's Crown. Hall of Famer and Grade 1 Kentucky Derby heroine Winning Colors also hails from this female family.