A group III winner in France back in 2013, Trevor Stewart's Stellar Path broke through with her first graded score in North America Oct. 17 at Belmont Park, taking the $200,000 Athenia Stakes (gr. IIIT).
The 4-year-old Astromomer Royal filly was off the pace with jockey Joel Rosario through most of the 1 1/16-mile turf test, and found herself on the rail entering the stretch. But she was able to find space and outlasted longshot Wiener Valkyrie to the wire, with grade II winner Lady Lara rallying from last in the field of 13 to finish third.
"I had a perfect trip," Rosario said. "At the five-sixteenths pole, I wasn't sure if I was going to come out or stay inside. (Speed Seeker) went out a little bit, so I took a chance and went through on the inside, because I had a lot of horse at that point. Everything worked out well today."
Keri Belle ran uncontested on the lead, putting up slow fractions of :26.44, :50.93, and 1:14.72 through six furlongs, but faded in the stretch. Stellar Path, trained by Christophe Clement, took over to finish the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.41.
"I thought it was a great ride," Clement said. "This filly has been a bit unlucky all year long. She's a touch difficult to ride. Joel came, he worked her last Sunday, and she actually worked in company with Hard Not to Like. He got to know her and everything worked out."
The winner paid $13, $7.90. and $5.20 across the board. Wiener Valkrie, off at 66-1, brought $68.50 and $28.60, while Lady Lara delivered $3.60 to show.
Rusty Slipper finished an even fourth, followed by Granny Mc's Kitten, A Little Bit Sassy, 3-1 favorite Coffee Clique, Faufiler, Tango Time, Speed Seeker, Keri Belle, Joy, and Baffle Me, to complete the order of finish.
Stellar Path was bred in France by SF Bloodstock out of the Verglas mare America Nova, and now has a 7-3-3 record from 18 career starts. The filly won her North American debut—the Plenty of Grace Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in April—and finished no worse than fourth in three ensuing stakes tries.