Gemma's Star Returns to Calder Winner's Circle

Three-year-old Gemma's Star, enjoying a comparatively light schedule after racing a remarkable 22 times as a 2-year-old, won her third straight at Calder Saturday in the $50,000 Neddles Stakes,

The less rigorous schedule may have something to do with his success of late, or it could be owed to his new trainer, David Brownlee. Whatever the case, the dark bay colt by End Sweep won the $75,000 Blazing Sword Stakes in his previous start on Aug. 24. James Calderazzo is the owner of Gemma's Star.

The Needles Stakes was originally scheduled for the turf course, but the race was switched to the main track at the time of entries (Thursday) due to excessive rains here during the week.

Contested at a mile and a sixteenth, the early pace was set by the lightly-raced and speedy Bernard's Candy. Bog Hunter, winner of a division of the Affirmed Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes here last year, pressed the pace the first half and matched strides with Bernard's Candy approaching the three-eighths pole.

Gemma's Star was in striking distance of the leaders in third. At the quarter pole, Susie's Poker made a strong bid and turning for home it was the four of them all in contention. Gemma's Star was full of run, but was caught behind Bernard's Candy and Bog Hunter. Jockey Manuel Aguilar guided Gemma's Star to the rail and the two drew away to win by 2 ¾ lengths over Susie's Poker. Bog Hunter was third, with Bernard's Candy coming in fourth. The running time was 1:46 3/5.

"I was a nervous wreck when he ran out of room in the stretch, but Manny (Aguilar) got him through on the inside," said Brownlee, who said he took his time bringing Gemma's Star back because of health issues.

"I was lucky," exclaimed Aguilar. "I had no choice but to go inside. I had no room – everybody tried to block me. Thank goodness I looked, waited, and I tried to pass inside. There was a little hole and I had plenty of horse at the moment. He finished good."

(Chart, Equibase)