Outsider Killer Graces, the most experienced filly in the field, grabbed the lead near mid-stretch and held off Charm the Maker for her first graded stakes win in the $402,000 Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) Dec. 10 at Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
Hall of Fame conditioner Jerry Hollendorfer earned his second Starlet victory in the past three years with 14-1 shot Killer Graces. Hollendorfer trains and co-owns the winning daughter of Congaree with a partnership that includes Daniel Borislow, Gillian Campbell, and Steve Melen. The trainer won the 2009 Starlet with Blind Luck.
Joe Talamo rode Killer Graces to a confident victory by a half-length over Charm the Maker, who defeated Killer Graces in the Sharp Cat Stakes at Hollywood Nov. 13. Pacesetter Lady Pecan held on for third, with 4-5 favorite Weemissfrankie a non-threatening fourth. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile Cushion Track test of 2-year-old fillies was 1:44.09.
Bred in Kentucky by Brian Kahn, Killer Graces is out of the Old Trieste mare Heatherdoesntbluff. She was purchased privately after she finished second, beaten by a nose, in her debut May 1.
Killer Graces has made eight starts in a career that began in May, winning three times and finishing second three other times. Over Hollywood's Cushion Track the chestnut filly has been especially effective with three wins and two seconds in five starts. She previously won the Cinderella and Landaluce stakes at sprint distances over the track during the spring/summer meet.
“I think she kind of likes Hollywood Park," Hollendorfer said. "She’s done very well here. Now we have to get her to carry it over to another track. She was down on the inside last time (when second in the Sharp Cat) and I don’t think that helped her very much. She was in the clear today and I think that might have helped us a little."
Fifth in her only previous grade I try in the Del Mar Debutante Sept. 3, Killer Graces was overlooked in favor of two-time grade I winner Weemissfrankie and Charm the Maker, who was 8-5. Just six contested the Starlet.
Weemissfrankie stumbled after the start and trailed the field into the far turn where she was slow to respond to the urging of jockey Rafael Bejarano. The third-place finisher in last month's Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) eventually got into gear in the lane, but she was too far back to make an impact.
Charm the Maker was reluctant to settle, pulling Garrett Gomez down the backside, and lacked the late punch she showed in gamely winning the 1 1/16-mile Sharp Cat, the main stakes prep for the Starlet. She made a good run at the leader in the final sixteenth of a mile to finish second, however.
Meanwhile, Killer Graces had a perfect trip for Talamo, racing in fourth along the inside down the backside before moving up a spot on the far turn as longshot Mi Vida backed out. Angled three paths wide rounding the final bend, she swept past Charm the Maker and Lady Pecan nearing the eighth pole and then dug in under left-handed urging for the final bit as Charm the Maker made a belated surge.
“We had an absolutely perfect trip,’’ said Talamo after his first Starlet win. “I followed (Charm the Maker) the whole way and just kind of did whatever (Garrett Gomez) did. She really likes this track. Her only bad races were at Del Mar.
“She’s just getting better and better and you can do anything with her. She’s a really nice filly and I can’t wait until she’s 3.’’
Lady Pecan, ridden by Martin Garcia, had a theft set up at 9-1 odds after leading the field through tepid quarter-mile fractions of :23.52, :47.30, and 1:12.29. But Lady Pecan began to weaken in upper stretch while battling on well for third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Charm the Maker.
Killer Graces won for the first time since taking the six-furlong Landaluce by a half-length July 16, ending a four-race slide. She has now banked $394,830 with the Starlet's winning purse of $241,200.
"We had some frustrating times with her at Del Mar," Hollendorfer said. "Truthfully, I don’t have anything in mind for her; we were kind of shooting for this race. I haven’t really thought about anything else yet. There will be plenty of races to look at.’’
Under equal weights of 120 pounds, the winner paid $30.40, $9.40, $7.40 as the second-longest shot on the board. Charm the Maker, third behind Weemissfrankie in the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 2, returned $3.60 and $3.60 for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally. Trainer Bob Baffert, another Hall of Fame member, was looking for his third Starlet win with Lady Pecan. She paid $6 to show.
Weemissfrankie was seeking to become the second to sweep Southern California's grade I events for 2-year-old fillies following victories in the Del Mar Debutante and the Oak Leaf.
“She was standing so good in the gate, but for some reason she broke really, really bad,’’ said Bejarano. “I was surprised because she never did that before. All I could do from there was try to stay on the rail. She tried to get out really bad on the first turn. It was just too much for her to do. She finished up really well.’’
She was followed by Self Preservation and Mi Vida.