Gary Tanaka's Star Parade, winless in nine races since taking the Milady Breeders' Cup (gr. I) in July 2004, pushed past heavily favored Dream of Summer in the stretch and drew off to an easy win in Sunday's $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares at Hollywood Park.
With Martin Pedroza in the saddle, Star Parade kept the pressure on the front-running Dream of Summer and Patrick Valenzuela for most of the 1 1/16-mile journey. Coming off the far turn, Star Parade was leaning on the leader, but under strong handling by Pedroza she cleared off while continuing to drift in late. She won as much the best by four lengths in a solid time of 1:41 4/5.
The Argentine-bred Star Parade carried 116 pounds to victory, six less than Dream of Summer, who romped in the California Cup Matron in her last start. The victory avenged Star Parade's loss by a neck to Dream of Summer in the Apple Blossom (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park in April.
Dream of Summer broke on top for Valenzuela with Star Parade on her immediate outside and the pair dueled on the front end throughout. The early fractions – :24 for the opening quarter mile and :47 1/5 for the half – were soft, but they picked up the pace from there and after six furlongs in 1:11, the pair pulled away from the rest of the field on the far turn.
It was 7 1/2 lengths back to the third-place finisher, Island Fashion, who rallied mildly under Garrett Gomez while losing for the 12th time in a row. Girl Warrior was a half-length behind Island Fashion, edging Halo Ola for fourth in a field of nine. There were four early scratches from the original 13 that were entered.
Darrell Vienna trains the winning 6-year-old daughter of Parade Marshal who turned in some disappointing performances in 2005. But returning to the site of her last victory at her best distance helped her turn it around. Star Parade won for the third time in six tries at Hollywood Park and improved to 4-3-1 in 12 starts at 1 1/16 miles. The dark bay ran third in her last race, the one-mile Las Palmas (gr. IIT) when beaten by 1 1/4 lengths on the Santa Anita turf.
"She's been running some good races lately," Vienna said. "In the middle of the year, she kind of lost her way and we made some changes in her diet. She was tying up a lot and she stopped doing that and she's a lot more relaxed on it.
"She went to almost a total high fat diet. It changes the way they look and it changes the way they act. So she's a lot more relaxed. I think he (Pedroza) actually had to ask her to run a little bit early. Usually we're trying to hold her back."
Pedroza road Star Parade for the first time in the Las Palmas and he learned some things, he said.
"I thought she was 'cheating' a little bit, maybe because she's getting older," Pedroza said. "I had seen some races of hers before when she really pulled hard. She didn't really pick up the bridle in that grass race (Las Palmas). So today I warmed her up a little more than usual. I wanted to let her know that today she was going to race. I put some run in her. Leaving the gate, I knew I was in good shape. She was very sharp. I knew that Patrick had a lot of horse, but so did I. It turned out I had a little more horse than he did."
Overall, Star Parade has won seven of 27 starts with earnings of $935,419.
Star Parade, who won the Bayakoa in a stakes-record time of 1:41 in 2003, joined Manistique (1998-99) and Starret (2001-02) as the only two-time winners of the stakes.
She paid $10.60, $4 and $3. Dream of Summer, the 6-5 favorite, returned $3 and $2.40, completing a $22.40 exacta. Island Fashion's show was $3.
Dream of Summer, a winner of more than $1 million, was aiming for her fourth victory in six starts dating back to the Apple Blossom.
"My mare broke alertly and I was sitting pretty easily on the lead," Valenzuela said. "Martin was in the catbird seat the whole way and had me in his sights. He came to me at the five-sixteenths pole. I thought I had a lot of horse to get away from him, but I couldn't."
Girl Warrior and the Argentine Halo Ola were followed by Cream Donut Keith, Sparkling Humor, the Brazilian-bred Nossa Cancao, and A Song in A Minor.
Scratched were Somethinaboutlaura, Proposed, I Can Yodele, and Fast Navy.
The upset was one of six on the nine-race program, resulting in a Pick Six carryover of $135,696 when racing resumes at Hollywood Park on Thursday.