Starrer carries jockey Patrick Valenzuela to victory in the Santa Maria Handicap Sunday at Santa Anita.

Starrer carries jockey Patrick Valenzuela to victory in the Santa Maria Handicap Sunday at Santa Anita.

AP/Benoit Photo

Classy Starrer Beats You in Santa Maria

(from track report)
Starrer was ready to roll down the backstretch in the $200,000 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park on Sunday, but jockey Patrick Valenzuela knew better than let her go so soon.

But when the field of older fillies and mares reached the stretch, Valenzuela let Starrer run, and did she ever respond.

The 11-10 favorite inched past You, the 13-10 second choice, and kicked clear on the inside to go on to a 1 ½-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile event for older fillies and mares.

The winning time was 1:42.75.

"I was very lucky to keep her calm in the first part because she was very keen to go on," Valenzuela said. "But I brought her back a couple of lengths off the pace, and at that point I knew I could put anywhere I wanted. I had plenty of room on the inside, so she just elected to go there."

Valenzuela rode three winners for the second consecutive day to take a 47-41 lead over Laffit Pincay Jr. in the jockey standings.

Starrer, a 5-year-old daughter of Dynaformer, now has won five of her 19 starts and has earned $863,033 for owner George Krikorian of Redondo Beach, Cal. The Santa Maria victory was the first in a Grade I race for Krikorian.

John Shirreffs, who also won the Santa Maria in 2000 with Manistique, trains Starrer, who ran fourth in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Arlington Park on Oct. 26. The mare was coming off a 5-length romp in the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park on Dec. 15.

"If she ran like she did in the Bayakoa, I thought she'd be fine," Shirreffs said, "and it looks like she did. Pace-wise, it set up good for us."

You, a winner of four Grade I races as a 3-year-old in 2002, also was making her first start of the year for trainer Bobby Frankel and owner Edmund Gann of San Diego.

In her race prior to the Santa Maria, You ran fifth in the 7-furlong La Brea Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Dec. 28.

"She tried real hard," jockey Kent Desormeaux said. "But she was second on class today."

The winner paid $4.20, $2.40 and $2.10. You returned $2.60 and $2.10. Rhiana, one-half length farther back in third, paid $2.10 to show.

Printemps ran fourth and Se Me Acabo, the longest shot in the lineup at $37.90 to $1, completed the field of five.

Chilean-bred Se Me Acabo was ridden by Gary Stevens, one of five mounts he had on his first day of competition since the Breeders' Cup. None of them won for the Hall of Fame rider, who has 4,735 career victories.

(Chart, Equibase)