Trainer Bob Baffert guns for his third victory in six years in the $200,000-added Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) Sunday with Victory U.S.A, the probable favorite in the test for 2-year-old fillies."All my good 2-year-old fillies have been different, but Victory U.S.A. is a lot like Habibti, a light filly but very talented," said Baffert Wednesday from his Santa Anita headquarters. Habibti was Baffert's 2001 Starlet winner.Baffert also won the Starlet in 1998 with Excellent Meeting but he is still reeling from the shock of last year, when his heavily favored Composure, a 1-to-5 shot, finished second to Elloluv, a 30-to-1 longshot.Baffert hopes to make amends with Victory U. S. A., who scored her second victory in five starts with a seven-length romp in the Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 16. The chestnut daughter of Victory Gallop finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and has earned $329,400 for owner Tom Van Meter II of Kentucky."She worked a half mile (in :47 2/5) here Tuesday with Dana Barnes," said Baffert, who has shipped the filly to Hollywood Park for schooling since the Moccasin.Baffert said that David Flores would ride the filly for the first time in the place of the injured Julie Krone, who rode her in the Moccasin. Krone will be sidelined for the remainder of the meet because of rib injuries suffered in a spill on Dec. 12.
A field of six is probable for the Starlet at 1 1/16 miles. The lineup: Victory U. S. A. (Flores), Dixie High (Kent Desormeaux), Hollywood Story (Patrick Valenzuela), House of Fortune (Alex Solis), Rahy Dolly (Jose Valdivia, Jr.) and Rings and Things (Mike Smith). All starters will carry 120 pounds.