Published in the Dec. 21 issue of The Blood-Horse
As she strolled toward the post and the start of the $356,500 Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) Dec. 14, Composure threw her head in a nodding fashion, perhaps trying to tout the bettors that she was, in fact, worth her 1-5 odds showing on the tote. Few would have argued. After all, of her six foes, four had done no more than register maiden victories, and one hadn't even gotten that far. Only Summer Wind Dancer had stakes experience, capturing a pair of restricted, California-bred stakes in her past two outs. Composure, though, was coming in off a monumental effort that saw her head Storm Flag Flying in the lane of the Long John Silver's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), only to see her royally pedigreed adversary come back gamely to pip her by a half-length on the line. Before that, she was a daylight winner of the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita. Forget that the majority of Breeders' Cup participants haven't fared well in their next outings; Bob and Beverly Lewis' Composure looked to tower over this field even if she wasn't in tip-top form. But this is why they run 'em. It sounds like a greeting from a Cary Grant movie: Elloluv. And the daughter of Gilded Time needed just 1:42.88 over 1 1/16 miles of Hollywood Park's main track to become a leading lady of the West Coast juvenile fillies. Plucked earlier this year out of Keeneland's April sale of 2-year-olds in training for $120,000 by trainer Craig Dollase for Di-Tech honcho J. Paul Reddam, Elloluv came into the Starlet with a pair of promising lines in her two career starts. She was a close-up third at Bay Meadows before making her maiden score over a muddy Hollywood surface last month in a pokey 1:12 and change. But for the Starlet she did have one Pat Valenzuela along for the first time, and that can make all the difference. As is his wont, P.Val broke quickly and grabbed the early lead, although Watching You, Summer Wind Dancer, and Kinzie Woo had the same idea. The four of them formed a picket fence that caused Composure to be strung out five-wide from the seven hole heading into the clubhouse turn. Elloluv maintained a clear-cut advantage while Valenzuela was able to nurse an opening :23.58 from her. Kinzie Woo, the maiden, was the one applying pressure coming to the quarter pole, and Mike Smith, aboard Composure, drafted behind her. Entering the second bend, Composure looked to be putting everything in order but for one small detail: Elloluv had no intention of quitting. She spurted away at the top of the lane and it was no match, as she beat Composure by four lengths, with Summer Wind Dancer third. Elloluv, bred in Kentucky by North Wales, lit up the board to the tune of $63.60 for a $2 win ticket. "She's always shown talent in her races and her training," said Dollase the following day. "We've been itching to stretch her out and had our sights set on this. We took a stab because, outside of Composure, it looked like a pretty regular race. I was quietly confident she'd run well, but I was surprised how strongly she ran away from them. "I told Pat to go as fast as you can as slow as you can, and he nursed her along beautifully. I said, 'Don't look at the odds,' and Pat told me he couldn't read too good anyway." Smith noted that the favorite was hitting herself with her stride and had cuts on her lower legs coming back after the race. Dollase, whose barn is half-full with horses owned by Reddam (the pair also teamed up for a grade I win with Swept Overboard), said the owner and his stepdaughter named the filly after the accent of Reddam's English wife, Zillah. Sorry, Cary. Hello, Oaks. Hot Chile
The co-feature on the Dec. 14 card was the $100,000 nine-furlong Native Diver Handicap (gr. III), which drew a field of eight older colts and geldings. The bettors made it a toss-up among Grey Memo, with his come-from-the-clouds style; Euchre, runner-up in this event a year ago; and Nelson Bunker Hunt's Piensa Sonando, the Chilean product coming off two strong efforts in expensive optional claiming company for the master of the South American import, trainer Ron McAnally. The Native Diver turned out to be another riders' race, and the master of them all, Laffit Pincay Jr., proved to be the difference. The field dispatched from the gate like a field of Quarter Horses, with Gentle Giant, Daunting, Euchre, and Dig for It running like their jockeys were double-parked. Pincay was able to take hold of Piensa Sonando early and angle to the inside to save ground. Grey Memo was last, a long way back, and never picked it up. Gentle Giant and Daunting continued to lead the packed parade up the backstretch through fractions of :23.48 and :47.35. Euchre failed to sustain his kick, and when Gentle Giant backed out of it, Daunting inherited the lead, who was then passed along like a hot potato. Fleetstreet Dancer looked like the winner at the sixteenth pole, but Pincay, who ducked inside rounding the turn, came outside a trio of runners with Piensa Sonando to grab the glory by a head on the wire over Fleetstreet Dancer. Nose the Trade finished third. The 4-year-old son of Gallantsky, bred by Haras Santa Olga, returned $7. "Laffit's as strong as ever," said McAnally afterward. "He came to my house when he first got here from Panama and was looking at the win pictures on the wall and I could tell from his reaction he had the desire to do great things." Another Star
Trainer Bobby Frankel has won half of the runnings of the Pacific Classic (gr. I), but trainer John Shirreffs may be going him one better at Hollywood. Having taken two Bayakoa Handicaps (gr. II) with Manistique, Shirreffs made it three of the last five when Starrer handily defeated five opponents Dec. 15 in the $150,000 contest. Starrer won the Bayakoa last year as well, but was in the care of trainer David Hofmans at the time. Sent off the even-money favorite, George Krikorian's Starrer, second two races back to Azeri, allowed Secret of Mecca, Netherland, and Cee's Elegance to battle it out for the lead in the first part of the 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa. Under Valenzuela, Starrer sat right behind the leaders around the second turn, and got a perfect rail split when Secret of Mecca drifted off the fence. It was over right then, as the 4-year-old daughter of Dynaformer cruised by five lengths in 1:41.74 over Cee's Elegance, with Angel Gift third. Winning for the fourth time in 18 career starts, Starrer, who was bred in Kentucky by Wind Hill Farm, has earned better than $750,000. The Bayakoa was her first win since...last year's Bayakoa. B Hollywood Swingin'
The Native Diver was jockey Laffit Pincay Jr.'s last race of the meet. He will serve a five-day suspension by going to Florida for vacation and to be honored...Owner Nelson Bunker Hunt won two races on the Dec. 14 card... That was surpassed by the Dollase family. Craig, in addition to winning the Starlet, saddled Thunders Echo to take a maiden contest three races later. That immediately followed his father, Wally's victory with Dynamistic in a $35,000 claimer. (Chart, Equibase)