With a victory in the $500,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I) Dec. 8 at Betfair Hollywood Park, Executiveprivilege could set off quite a debate for the Eclipse Award in the juvenile filly division.
From the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, Executiveprivilege will be heavily favored in the 1 1/16-mile Starlet under equal weights of 120 pounds against seven opponents. If she were to win, it would be the third grade I victory of the year for the daughter of First Samurai , the most of any juvenile filly in the country.
Missing from the Starlet is Beholder, the filly that defeated the previously unbeaten Executiveprivilege by one length in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. Beholder, conditioned by another Hall of Fame trainer, Richard Mandella, posted her first stakes win in the $2 million event and is not expected to race again until early next year.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Executiveprivilege had five consecutive wins heading into the Breeders' Cup. She has already captured the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) and Chandelier Stakes (gr. I), formerly the Oak Leaf, at Santa Anita.
Executiveprivilege defeated Beholder by a nose in the Del Mar Debutante, so a win from the strapping bay filly would rekindle the age-old argument over just how important a Breeders' Cup victory should be in assessing a champion, or whether greater consideration should be given to an overall campaign.
Executiveprivilege, who wears blinkers for the first time in the Starlet, also gets a new jockey in Mike Smith after Rafael Bejarano had ridden her in all of her previous races. She will also run without the anti-bleeder medication Lasix, which she raced without for the first time in her prior start under Breeders' Cup restrictions. Executiveprivilege has turned in four published workouts at Santa Anita since the Juvenile Fillies, most recently clipping off a half-mile handily in :48 flat in the mud Dec. 2, seventh fastest of 17 at the distance.
The Starlet will be contested on Hollywood's Cushion Track, the surface over which Executiveprivilege started her career. She broke her maiden at first asking June 28 by 4 1/2 lengths going 5 1/2 furlongs, then returned July 14 with a 3 1/4-length tally in the six-furlong Landaluce Stakes.
Executiveprivilege, favored in all of her previous races, drew post 6 in the Starlet, ninth of 10 races on Saturday's Hollywood program. With a 4:35 p.m. PST probable post, the Starlet follows the $200,000 Bayakoa Handicap Presented by the Oak Tree Racing Association (gr. II) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, which is the sixth race.
Baffert will also be represented by Blonde Fog, an eye-popping 12 1/2-length maiden special weight winner in her debut going 1 1/16 miles Oct. 28 at Santa Anita. Owned by Pegram and Dr. Mark Dedomenico, the Divine Park filly worked :48 3/5 in the mud at Santa Anita Dec. 2. Martin Garcia has the return call from post 4.
The trainer has won the Starlet twice previously, in 1998 with Excellent Meeting and in 2001 with Habibti.
The lone shipper in the Starlet field is Magdalena Racing's Pure Fun, a $10,000 supplemental entrant from trainer Ken McPeek's barn at Churchill Downs. The Pure Prize filly, picking up the services of jockey Garrett Gomez, drew the rail. She comes into the race off a 9 1/4-length romp in a one-mile allowance optional claiming event Nov. 24 on the main track at Churchill after racing on turf in five consecutive races before that. Pure Fun, who races without Lasix, will be making her synthetic track debut.
Midnight Ballet, winner of the Sharp Cat Stakes by three-quarters of a length over the track and distance Nov. 11, returns for trainer Tom Proctor and Stoneway Farm. The Midnight Lute lass has won two of three starts and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.
The Starlet also attracted the next two finishers in the Sharp Cat, runner-up Renee's Titan and third place Scarlet Strike. Renee's Titan is trained by Doug O'Neill for Zillah Reddam, while Scarlet Strike, the 4-5 favorite in the Sharp Cat, hails from the barn of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He co-owns the daughter of Smart Strike with John Carver and Green Smith. Scarlet Strike was second to Executiveprivilege in the Chandelier.
Hollendorfer has won the Starlet in two of the past three years, beginning with Blind Luck in 2009 and Killer Graces last year.
Peter Miller has entered a pair in Rhodium, fourth in the Sharp Cat, and Miss Empire, who returns to the main track after trailing the field in the Miesque Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Hollywood turf course Nov. 24. Miss Empire romped in the Cinderella Stakes over the surface in June but has lost her past three tries against Executiveprivilege.
$500,000 Starlet Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 4:35 p.m.), 2YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Pure Fun (KY), G K Gomez, K G McPeek
2. Miss Empire (KY), K Krigger, P Miller
3. Scarlet Strike (KY), J Talamo, J Hollendorfer
4. Blonde Fog (KY), M Garcia, B Baffert
5. Midnight Ballet (KY), J R Leparoux, T F Proctor
6. Executiveprivilege (KY), M E Smith, B Baffert
7. Renee's Titan (KY), T Baze, D F O'Neill
8. Rhodium (KY), R Bejarano, P Miller
All carry 120 pounds
Blinkers On: Executiveprivilege