Juddmonte Farms' homebred Starformer continued to shine in the $100,000 The Very One Stakes (gr. IIIT) Feb. 16, cruising to 3 1/4-length victory as much the best over seven other older fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park (VIDEO).
The 5-year-old daughter of Dynaformer was sent off the 3-5 favorite and had proven herself on soft turf when taking the Nov. 10 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Aqueduct Racetrack; she found conditions similarly to her liking for her 2013 debut in South Florida after rain the preceding day.
"We ran on fresh ground with it raining hard the past few days but they kept the track in good shape, which is a plus," Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado said after his victory on Starformer.
Though her last victory came in wire-to-wire fashion for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, this time Starformer settled behind the pace in third and switched off nicely until it was time to run approaching the final turn. She went 1 3/8 miles on turf rated good in 2:18.03.
It was Seanchai who led the field through opening fractions of :24.84 and :48.48, with Closing Range in close pursuit and Starformer rounding out the top trio, 3 1/2 lengths from the front. Those three separated themselves about 2 1/2 lengths from the rest of the pack to get three-quarters in 1:13.70, an order that remained unchanged up the backstretch.
"The instructions coming into this race were to play it by ear and see what happens," Prado explained. "If they decided to go, we'd lay back or go nice and easy to the lead if that was the case. I sat right behind the lead and waited."
When Prado said it was time to go about three furlongs out from the wire, Starformer responded with a strong outside move as they completed a mile in 1:38.72.
"She was happy and relaxed and when I let her go around the turn, she gave me a nice, beautiful move as we tried to find the best part of the track," Prado said. "She's a very game filly and shows up every time. I'm very proud of her."
Starformer easily inhaled Closing Range and Seanchai and struck the front turning for home, then widened her advantage while racing far out in the center of the track. Angegreen came with a good closing run to get second at odds of 14-1, with another three-quarters of a length back to Beijoca in third.
Starformer returned $5, $3.40, and $3, while Angegreen paid $10.60 and $6.20. Beijoca returned $7 to show.
Seanchai, Kadaya, Closing Range, Janicellaine, and Game Fair completed the order of finish. My Pal Chrisy, entered for the main track only, scratched to run in the Feb. 17 Sabin Stakes (gr. III) on dirt.
Trainer Bob Hess blamed the softer going for an uncharacteristic off-the-board finish from Kadaya, the second choice.
"The pace was honest and she was closer than she was last time," Hess said. "I'm blaming it on the track today. If she gets third beaten two (lengths) then I'd say the best horse won, and maybe the best horse did win, but to run fifth beaten (12 lengths), that wasn't the real Kadaya for whatever reason."
Bred in Kentucky out of the Miswaki mare Etoile Montante, Starformer improved her record to 5-2-3 from 14 starts with earnings of $409.794. She made four starts and earned a win in France before beginning her U.S. career with a third in the 2011 Hattie Moseley Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
The bay mare hit her best stride last year with three wins and two seconds in seven starts, including her first graded-stakes score in the Robert G. Dick Memorial (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park in mid-July.
"She came to us as a 3-year-old and was a little disappointing running in her first few races for us at a mile or a little more; she seemed to get in trouble," Mott said. "After that we stretched her out to 11 furlongs or more and she seems to like that a lot better. The Orchid (gr. IIIT) is here (March 30), and I guess that will be next for her."