(Varda wins the G1 Starlet Stakes / Photo Courtesy of Los Alamitos)
From the Los Alamitos Media Team:
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Drayden Van Dyke teamed to win the Grade I, $300,000 Starlet for a fourth consecutive year Saturday with 17-1 shot Varda.
Baffert, however, wasn’t in a mood to immediately celebrate the success in the final Grade I of the year for 2-year-old fillies.
He was concerned about the well being of Princess Noor, the 3-5 favorite who was pulled up early in the stretch by jockey Victor Espinoza.
After tracking the early pace of stablemate Kalypso, the daughter of Not This Time, a $1.35 million purchase earlier this year for Zedan Racing Stables, Inc., had breezed to the lead at the head of the long stretch and looks primed to draw away from her four rivals.
However, Princess Noor was guided towards the outside rail by jockey Victor Espinoza and pulled up. She walked into the van under her own power and was taken back to the Baffert stable to be examined.
“(Espinoza) said he pulled her up right away,’’ said Baffert. “He said it didn’t look real bad. It was her left front. We’re going to take her back to the barn and have her X-rayed to see what the deal is. I can’t believe it. She was running so easy.
“(Varda) had been working really well and she looked like the kind of filly that the farther the better with her, so that’s why we’ve been waiting and waiting with her. I’m so upset (about Princess Noor) it’s hard to focus.’’
About 30 minutes after the race, Baffert told the Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen X-rays revealed there were no fractures. “It’s soft tissue,’’ he said. I don’t know if she hit herself. She’ll be fine. She didn’t break anything.’’
A $700,000 purchase at the OBS April sale, Varda is owned by Baoma Corp., which also campaigned Bast.
A daughter of Distorted Humor and the Sky Mesa mare She’ll Be Right, Varda trailed early while kept outside by Van Dyke, drew alongside Kalypso with about a sixteenth of a mile and pulled clear late to win by 1 ½ lengths.
The victory was the second in three starts for the New York bred and pushed her earnings to $254,500. She paid $37.80, $8.40 and $5.80 as the second longest shot in the field. Kalypso, who had a 2 ½ length lead with an eighth of a mile to run after Princess Noor was pulled up, returned $7.80 and $7.40 while finishing four lengths clear of 25-1 shot Nasreddine. Astute, the 13-10 second choice, was fourth, her first loss after beginning her career with a pair of sprint wins for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.
“She always tries hard,’’ said Van Dyke of the winner. “She broke well and we just waited. She needed every bit of that long stretch.’’
Van Dyke’s previous three wins with Baffert in the Starlet had come with Dream Tree (2017), Chasing Yesterday (2018) and Bast (2019).
Racing resumes Sunday at Los Alamitos. Post time is 12:30 p.m.
The main event is the $100,000 Bayakoa, a Grade III for fillies and mares – 3-Year-Olds & up – at 1 1/16 miles. The Bayakoa will go as the fifth race on the program with a scheduled post time of 2:28 p.m.