Bob Baffert was favored to win his fourth straight renewal of the GI Starlet S. at Los Alamitos Saturday…just with a different horse. Grade I-winning 'TDN Rising Star' Princess Noor (Not This Time) was favored to rebound off a fifth in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 6, but instead was pulled up and her stablemate Varda (Distorted Humor) took up the baton, springing a 17-1 upset. It was also the fourth consecutive Starlet victory for winning pilot Drayden Van Dyke and the second for Susan and Charlie Chu's Baoma Corporation, which campaigned last year's victress Bast (Uncle Mo).
Purchased by Donato Lanni for $700,000 at the delayed OBS April Sale after breezing in a sharp :20 4/5, Varda was a decisive debut winner going six panels at Del Mar Aug. 30. She was a well-beaten second behind Princess Noor in the GII Chandelier S. going two turns at Santa Anita last time Sept. 26.
Dismissed at the windows in this five-horse affair, Varda raced in tandem with previously unbeaten second-choice Astute at the back of the pack through the opening strides, but bulged out three wide turning for home as that rival cut the corner. The bay trailed the quintet as stablemate Kalypso (Brody's Cause) clicked off early fractions of :22.91 and :46.43 with Princess Noor in tow. Princess Noor swept to the front as three-quarters went in 1:10.15 with Varda still at the rear of the field with plenty of work to do. Princess Noor stumbled exiting the bend and was quickly pulled up and taken out into the clear by pilot Victor Espinoza. Kalypso resumed command and continued strongly down the lane, but Varda unleashed a powerful late kick, inhaling her stablemate in the final sixteenth to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Nasreddine (Nyquist), the longest shot on the board at 25-1, filled the show spot and Astute was fourth. Varda was the third New York-bred graded winner of the day, following GII Remsen S. victor Brooklyn Strong (Wicked Strong) and GIII Go for Wand H. heroine Sharp Starr (Munnings) at Aqueduct.
“She always tries hard,” said Van Dyke. “She broke well and we just waited. She needed every bit of that long stretch.”
“[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,” Baffert said. “I'm so upset about [Princess Noor] it's hard to focus.”
As for that injured favorite, the Hall of Famer said, “Victor [Espinoza] said he pulled her up right away. He said it didn't look real bad. It was her left front. We're going to take her back to the barn and take X-rays and see what the deal is. I can't believe it. She was running so easy.”
Later in the day, TVG's Britney Eurton tweeted an update on Princess Noor, saying, “I just spoke with Bob Baffert regarding Princess Noor who was pulled up in the GI Starlet. He said she X-rayed clean, but has some inflammation in her left front tendon and stated, 'she was much better when she got back to the barn.'”
Varda is the 17th Grade I winner, 69th graded scorer and 159th black-type victor for WinStar stalwart Distorted Humor. Her dam She'll Be Right (Sky Mesa) is also responsible for GSP Big Family (Any Given Saturday) and MSP Geouttamyway (Cross Traffic). The 14-year-old mare's recent produce includes a yearling colt by Lookin at Lucky and a weanling colt by Maclean's Music. She was bred back to Accelerate. This is also the family of Grade I winner Abscond (Blame).
Satuday, Los Alamitos
STARLET S.-GI, $300,500, Los Alamitos, 12-5, 2yo, f, 1 1/16m, 1:44.53, ft.
1–VARDA, 120, f, 2, by Distorted Humor
1st Dam: She'll Be Right, by Sky Mesa
2nd Dam: Boogie Beach Blues, by Cure the Blues
3rd Dam: Lonely Beach, by Kennedy Road
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN, 1ST GRADE I WIN. ($100,000 Ylg '19 SARAUG; $700,000 2yo '20 OBSAPR). O-Baoma Corporation; B-Masters 2013 LLC & Distorted Humor Syndicate (NY); T-Bob Baffert; J-Drayden Van Dyke. $181,500. Lifetime Record: 3-2-1-0, $254,500. *1/2 to Getouttamyway (Cross Traffic), MSP, $174,830; and Big Family (Any Given Saturday), GSP, $148,433. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Kalypso, 120, f, 2, by Brody's Cause
1st Dam: Malibu Cove, by Malibu Moon
2nd Dam: Spirited Away, by Awesome Again
3rd Dam: Cape North, by Capote
($240,000 Ylg '19 FTKJUL). O-Rockingham Ranch & David A Bernsen LLC; B-Spendthrift Farm LLC (KY); T-Bob Baffert. $61,500.
3–Nasreddine, 120, f, 2, by Nyquist
1st Dam: Appreciating, by Sky Mesa
2nd Dam: Hello Barbara Sue, by Dehere
3rd Dam: Barbara Sue, by Big Spruce
($360,000 Ylg '19 FTSAUG). O-Andrew & Rania Warren; B-John C Oxley (KY); T-Michael W McCarthy. $37,500.
Margins: 1HF, 4, 8. Odds: 17.90, 11.20, 25.40.
Also Ran: Astute, Princess Noor.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.