Cluster of Stars Wires Gallant Bloom
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Cluster of Stars is in control in the Gallant Bloom Handicap.
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Turtle Bird Stable's Cluster of Stars improved her undefeated record to six wins at the cost of Dance to Bristol in the $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. III) Sept. 21 at Belmont Park (VIDEO).

The 4-year-old daughter of Greeley's Galaxy cruised wire-to-wire in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint, making her first start since a victory in the April 13 Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack. All Cluster of Stars' previous triumphs came at Aqueduct, but trainer Steve Asmussen had faith in her ability to change tracks off the layup, and she delivered with a strong run under jockey Javier Castellano.

"She's never done anything wrong, and she continues to improve, be right there against good horses, and do the right things," said Asmussen's assistant, Toby Sheets.

After opening fractions of :22.16 and :45.43 about a length in front of Munnings Sister, the bay filly carried on to preserve her advantage by five lengths in spite of Dance to Bristol's late run.

Dance to Bristol, coming off seven straight wins including the Aug. 23 Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, loomed with a powerful presence four wide on the outside as the field turned for home. But Cluster of Stars fought back gamely on the rail through three-quarters in 1:09.38 after being briefly headed. She was also aided by the weaving trip of Dance to Bristol, who came out in the lane under urging and could not do better than second.

Final time for the distance was 1:15.75 on a good track. 

"I had a beautiful trip," Castellano said. "Breaking out of the gate, this filly had a lot of speed, but she was able to relax. I had a lot of confidence in her. I know she's a very classy filly and we've had success together in the past. I wasn't worried about the layoff; the combination of the speed holding today and drawing the rail was an advantage for me today."

Trainer Ollie Figgins III said there were no excuses for Dance to Bristol, whose snapped win streak included victory in five stakes, three of them graded.

"My filly ran her race," he said. "We kind of had to go after that filly early or she definitely was not going to beat her. The winner looked better than us today, that's for sure."

Off at odds of 3-1, Cluster of Stars returned $8.20, $4, and $2.80. Dance to Bristol, the 2-1 favorite, brought $3.60 and $2.50. Dance Card paid $3.20 at 5-2, while Holiday Soiree, Classic Point, Crespano, Munnings Sister, and Defy Gravity completed the order of finish in the field of eight fillies and mares. Villanesca scratched.

Cluster of Stars was bred in Kentucky by Michael McPoland & Sean Finn out of the Honour and Glory mare Babyurthegreatest. Victory in the Gallant Bloom improved her earnings to $459,600.

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