Supplemented late at a total cost of $20,000, Pure Fun became a Grade I winner Saturday, rallying strongly in the final quarter of a mile to take the $500,000 Hollywood Starlet at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The 6-1 surprise came about 90 minutes after Lady of Fifty earned her first graded win in the $200,000 Bayakoa Stakes.
Trained by Ken McPeek for his family's Magdalena Racing, Pure Fun, a 2-year-old daughter of Pure Prize and the Key to the Mint mare Chelsea Green, was behind all seven of her opponents approaching the stretch.
Racing in the clear under jockey Garrett Gomez, the chestnut, who was making her first start outside Kentucky and first over a synthetic surface, quickly made up much ground, ultimately collaring pacesetter Blonde Fog with about a sixteenth of a mile to go.
The one length win was the second in a row and third in eight starts for Pure Fun, who completed the 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track in 1:44.65. She's earned $343,599.
McPeek's decision to supplement was made after Pure Fun's 9 ¼ length victory in an optional claimer Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs. In her only previous appearance in a graded event before Saturday, Pure Fun, who began her career in a $50,000 maiden claimer in June, finished seventh in the Grade III Jessamine Oct. 11 over the turf at Keeneland.
Among those who were no match for the winner Saturday was 2-5 favorite Executiveprivilege. The double Grade I winner finished fourth – beaten 5 ½ lengths – without a visible excuse for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who also saddled 5-1 second choice Blonde Fog.
In her initial collaboration with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Executiveprivilege, who was making her first start in blinkers, was well positioned inside on the backstretch, moved into second outside Blonde Fog after six furlongs, but failed to sustain her bid.
There was plenty of thought that another Grade I victory for the daughter of First Samurai would have greatly enhanced her case for an Eclipse Award as the champion 2-year-old filly, despite her loss to Beholder in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 2.
The first off the board finish of Executiveprivilege's career triggered inflated show prices. Of the $162,560 in the show pool, $123,574 was bet on the Kentucky bred.
“Extremely disappointed,” said Smith. “I had a beautiful trip, but she got her head way up and did not menace. I just hope everything is OK with her after the race.”
Providing Gomez with his first Starlet win, Pure Fun paid $14.40, $6 and $10.60. Blonde Fog, who was stepping into a Grade I after a 12 ½ length maiden victory in her Oct.28 debut at Santa Anita, returned $6 and $9.40. The show price on Scarlet Strike, who was nearly 20-1, was $19. She finished two lengths behind Blonde Fog.
“She jumped away well, but I was a little bit concerned because she was not traveling her best around the first turn,” said Gomez. “About halfway down the backside, she started figuring it out and when I wheeled her out she was really accelerating. She took off and was very impressive.”
Matt Shirer, McPeek's assistant, indicated Pure Fun will remain in California for about a week before returning to Kentucky. He added the primary target in 2013 is the Grade I Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill Downs.
“She was a little further back than I thought she was going to be,'' said Shirer. “It was the same kind of thing in (her Nov. 24 win) – around the quarter pole she came flying.”
Sharp Cat winner Midnight Ballet finished fifth and she was followed by Renee's Titan, Miss Empire and Rhodium.
GARRET GOMEZ, PURE FUN, Winner: “She jumped away well, but I was a little bit concerned because she was not traveling her best around the first turn. About halfway down the backside, she started figuring it out and when I wheeled her out she was really accelerating. She took off and was very impressive.”
MARTIN GARCIA, BLONDE FOG, Second: “She ran a big race. Those were some nice fillies she ran against and I think she's going to improve a lot next time.”
JOE TALAMO, SCARLET STRIKE, Third: “I had a perfect trip, just got outrun.”
MIKE SMITH, EXECUTIVEPRIVILEGE, Fourth: “Extremely disappointed. I had a beautiful trip, but she got her head way up and did not menace. I just hope everything is OK with her after the race.”
MATT SHIRER (Assistant trainer Ken McPeek), PURE FUN, Winner: “She was a little bit further back than I thought she was going to be. (Gomez) said he asked her to go around the three-eighths pole and she gave him a little. Then by about the quarter pole she really kicked it in. All the sudden she gave a great burst of energy about six or seven wide around all those horses. In Kentucky (a 9 ¼ length win Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs) it was the same kind of thing—around the quarter pole she came flying. She's probably going to stay here for about a week, then she will fly back to Lexington. She'll go to the farm for a little bit and most likely be pointed toward the (Grade I Kentucky) Oaks (next May).”
BOB BAFFERT, BLONDE FOG, Second and EXECUTIVEPRIVILEGE, fourth: “She (Executiveprivilege) didn't punch. The winner ran a good race and my other filly (Blonde Fog) ran a good race. On the turn for home I saw she was struggling a little bit. She felt fine for (Mike Smith), but when she turned for home, she put her head up a bit and just had no zip.”
JERRY HOLLENDORFER, SCARLET STRIKE, Third: “I'm just happy to be Grade I placed again. She ran well.”
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