In a race likely to produce a couple of contestants for the much-anticipated Apple Blossom Invitational (gr. I) April 9, front-running Freedom Star dominated the $149,750 Azeri Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park March 6 (VIDEO) .
George Krikorian's Freedom Star, a 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry shipping in from Southern California for trainer Bob Baffert, registered her first stakes win.
Calvin Borel, riding Freedom Star for the first time, hustled her out of the gate from the rail post and Freedom Star never looked back while winning by 3 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:44.09 for the 1 1/16-mile distance on a fast track. Quarter-mile fractions for the first six furlongs were :23.83, :48.11, and 1:12.93.
Freedom Star ran the legs off her pace rivals Just Jenda, Afleet Deceit, and Spirit Seeker to open up a clear lead in the lane. Euphony, putting in a sweeping six-wide rally around the final bend, appeared to have a chance to run down Freedom Star, but the pacesetter had something left for the final furlong and put away the challenger.
Euphony, ridden by Cliff Berry, finished second by 1 1/2 lengths over Afleet Deceit and Chris Emigh. Just Jenda checked in fourth, a head behind Afleet Deceit.
Freedom Star won for the fourth time in nine starts while boosting her bankroll to $197,160 with the $90,000 winning share. Bred in Kentucky by Y. Kolybabiuk, the bay filly is out of the Williamstown mare Willie's Luv and sold for $220,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2007.
Freedom Star was coming off a fifth-place finish in the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 14 at Santa Anita Park. She ran third in the El Encino (gr. II) before that.
Sent off as the close second choice, Freedom Star carried 115 pounds and paid $7.60, $4.80, and $3.80 and topped a $49.60 exacta. Grade III winner Euphony, who prepped for the Azeri with a second-place finish in Oaklawn's Pippin Stakes on a sloppy track Jan. 23, returned $5.20 and $4. Afleet Deceit, who ran fifth in the Pippin, paid $9 to show.