Chester and Mary Broman's homebred Highway Star surprised a short field of six in Sunday's G3 Distaff Handicap, settling along the rail behind horses and rallying in the stretch to record her second graded stakes victory by a half-length on the wire. The 4-year-old daughter of Girolamo, ridden by Angel Arroyo, covered seven furlongs over Aqueduct's fast main track in 1:22.25 for trainer Rodrigo Ubillo.
“She was really comfortable,” Arroyo said. “I broke and got a good trip and stayed behind the speed. In the stretch, when she switched leads, she went great. She loves seven furlongs, she likes the distance.”
Kelsocait broke on top of the field, and was joined by Clipthecouponannie on her outside keeping up the pressure on the leader. Indulgent took up position in third along the outside, and Highway Star was at the rail in fourth in front of favored Carrumba. Kelsocait set moderate fractions for the distance, :22.46 for the first quarter and :45.16 for the half-mile, but she began to falter mid-way through the far turn.
Clipthecouponannie took over the lead at the three-eighths pole, but Indulgent had begun to challenge her on the outside. Those two turned for home a neck apart, with Clipthecouponannie just in front. Meanwhile, Highway Star and Arroyo had elected to wait behind horses until the field straightened into the stretch, saving a bit of ground instead of going four-wide around Indulgent.
As she changed leads, Highway Star just kept grinding away at the leaders. Indulgent took over the lead in mid-stretch, but Highway Star just kept coming and was able to get in front by a half-length at the wire. Indulgent had to settle for second, and Clipthecouponannie finished third. Kelsocait came in fourth, and favorite Carrumba never threatened to finish fifth.
“We're happy. She's a nice filly,” Ubillo said. “I was just hoping they'd go fast up front but she can adapt to any pace scenario really. It certainly helped they went fast and she was able to wear them down. Her last race, she was in heat and maybe she didn't like the smaller [inner] track, but we took our time. We know her ability and took her time to bring her back and you see the result.”
Bred in New York by her owners, Highway Star is out of a stakes-placed daughter of Cat Thief – Unbridled Star, by Unbridled. Highway Star closed out her 2016 season with a win in the G3 Go For Wand Stakes, but was beaten 17 lengths in her first start of 2017. Given a two-month break, she returned for the Distaff score as the second-longest shot in the field at 5-1. Overall, Highway Star boasts a very consistent record of six wins from 9 starts, with earnings of over $480,000.
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