Odds-on favorite Jolie Olimpica was in front most of the way in Saturday’s $202,000 Buena Vista (G2), but her perfect record grew endangered in the Santa Anita stretch as the 36-1 Keeper Ofthe Stars ultimately wore her down.
Trained by Jonathon Wong for Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, Keeper Ofthe Stars herself had been the beaten favorite in a couple of her recent starts. The winner of the Oct. 26 Autumn Miss (G3) at this course and mile distance, she didn’t handle the 1 3/8 miles of the Red Carpet (G3), fading to sixth as the 12-10 choice. Keeper Ofthe Stars was a more characteristic second to Brill in the Dec. 28 Lady of Shamrock, but after tiring to sixth in the Jan. 20 Megahertz (G3), she was a forgotten horse here.
Ironically, the scenario that contributed to her Megahertz loss – a swift pace – was similar to what compromised Jolie Olimpica on Saturday. Only this time, a more patiently ridden Keeper Ofthe Stars was able to take advantage.
While Jolie Olimpica didn’t face early pressure, the Brazilian star didn’t appear to relax as she reeled off fractions of :23.23, :46.49, and 1:10.24. By that point, the stalking Brill had drawn closer. Jolie Olimpica managed to hold her at bay down the lane, but Keeper Of the Stars was gaining, and so was Mucho Unusual wider out.
The 3-5 shot knuckled down and did her utmost to hang on, only to find Keeper Ofthe Stars too strong in the final yards. Up by a half-length at the wire, the Midnight Lute filly clocked 1:34.15 with Abel Cedillo and sparked a $74.20 win mutuel.
Tactics were key, as Wong and Cedillo told track publicity.
“When Tom and Debi (Stull) from Tommy Town Thoroughbreds gave her to me,” Wong said, “it felt like the best horse we have ever had. We thought she would come from off the pace. She is better when she has something to chase and when she on the outside and clear, because she has such a long stride – it takes her a while to get going.”
“I thought if we could get her to relax off the pace today, she could make one run,” Cedillo said. “I got her back going into the first turn and she relaxed really good. The distance was perfect and she finished really strong.”
Jolie Olimpica, in contrast, was too much on the muscle after her course-record Las Cienegas (G3) in her U.S. debut.
“Going from a sprint to a route today, she just didn’t relax,” Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith said. “She was pulling and when she does that, she’s not breathing the way she needs to.”
Mucho Unusual was another half-length away in third. Lady Prancealot was along belatedly in fourth, followed by Tiny Tina (who was demoted to eighth for interference in deep stretch), Brill, Meal Ticket, the hampered Super Patriot, and La Sardane.
Carressa, the Megahertz winner, was a notable scratch. According to Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen, trainer John Shirreffs withdrew her because of “a little heat in a leg.” Muchly and Sold It were also scratched.
Keeper Ofthe Stars has earned $321,931 from her 14-6-1-3 line. The gray was fourth in her first two stakes attempts, in last summer’s San Clemente (G2) and Del Mar Oaks (G1), before improving in the fall.
Bred by Olin Gentry, Omar Trevino, and Anthony Cappola in Kentucky, Keeper Ofthe Stars sold for $60,000 as a Keeneland November weanling and $180,000 as a September yearling. Her dam, the Run Away and Hide mare Sociable, is an unraced half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning sire The Factor.