At first glance, the December 8th $300,000 Starlet Stakes (gr. I) at Los Alamitos isn’t the most appealing race from a betting perspective—with just six starters, payoffs could be on the small side.
But then again, the 1 1/16-mile Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep race is packed with quality, so it’s not like there’s an overwhelming favorite towering over the field. And if we can beat the favorite—a strong possibility I think—the Starlet Stakes might wind up being a good betting race after all.
The probable favorite is the Bob Baffert-trained #6 Chasing Yesterday, and certainly her credentials are daunting. The daughter of Tapit is a half-sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and she’s been favored at 1.70-1 or less in all four of her starts. Three of those resulted in victory, with her lone defeat coming in the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, where she just never seemed to fire while trudging home seventh.
But here’s the thing—Chasing Yesterday has never run farther than seven furlongs, and she’s gotten beautiful pace setups in her last two wins. In the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita, she settled back behind fast fractions of :21.49 and :44.72 before rallying to a narrow victory over the pacesetter, and in the Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar last month, she sat third in a three-horse field while her two rivals dueled through blazing fractions of :21.81 and :43.98. Naturally, Chasing Yesterday passed them in the homestretch, but she ultimately prevailed by just 1 ½ lengths while running the final furlong in a slow :14.40 seconds.
I think Chasing Yesterday could be vulnerable while stretching out around two turns, so I’m going to focus my attention on her stablemate #2 Mother Mother. This stoutly-bred daughter of Pioneerof the Nile already has Baffert thinking ahead to the Kentucky Oaks, which isn’t surprising since her last two starts yielded a runner-up effort in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) and a victory in the Rags to Riches Stakes. In the latter race, held over a mile at Churchill Downs, Mother Mother carved out fast fractions in her first start back from an illness, but still found enough down the homestretch to keep going and win by 1 ¾ lengths.
Mother Mother has trained sharply since the Rags to Riches, and I think we’ll see her take a step forward while stretching out around two turns in the Starlet Stakes. #1 Vibrance, third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), is another classy filly that must be included, while I’ll lean against the Starlet’s lone graded stakes winner #4 Oxy Lady, whose signature win came in the Tempted Stakes (gr. III) over the tricky track at Aqueduct—I’m not sure how well that effort will translate to Los Alamitos.
Here’s how I would play the race: