War Heroine winning her debut at Del Mar (Benoit Photo)

War Heroine winning her debut at Del Mar (Benoit Photo)

The $300,000 Starlet Stakes (gr. I) might be a Grade 1 race, but from a handicapping perspective, the December 9th feature at Los Alamitos hasn’t come up very tough.

Just five fillies have turned out to contest the 8.5-furlong race, with the likely favorite being the experienced #2 Piedi Bianchi. Trained by Doug O’Neill, the daughter of Overanalyze has already run in three Grade 1 races, running second in the Del Mar Debutante, third in the Chandelier Stakes, and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

That kind of form is eye-catching and figures to draw significant wagering action, but Piedi Bianchi is a late runner that likes to capitalize on fast early paces, and her sprint races have been more impressive than her efforts around two turns. In fact, in the Chandelier Stakes, Piedi Bianchi was unable to make much of an impact in the homestretch despite a pace setup that very much favored her late-running style.

With this in mind, I’ll try to beat Piedi Bianchi with #4 War Heroine. While she’s only run once, that one run was an effortless 6 ¾-length romp sprinting 6 ½ furlongs at Del Mar on November 12th. She showed plenty of speed setting quick fractions of :22.11 and :45.23, yet still finished strongly while easing up close to the finish. For that effort, she earned an 89 BRIS speed figure that stacks up well against the figures earned by Piedi Bianchi.

Trainer Bob Baffert has won this race three times before and will send out #3 Dream Tree in search of a fourth victory. The daughter of Uncle Mo is 2-for-2 so far in her brief career, winning a six-furlong maiden race by a nose over Midnight Bisou before stretching out to seven furlongs and beating that same rival by the same margin in the Desi Arnaz Stakes. Dream Tree clearly has talent, but the distance of the Starlet Stakes could be a concern; Baffert indicated after the Desi Arnaz that Dream Tree would likely focus on sprint races in the future and that her major target for 2018 could be the seven-furlong Test Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. After barely holding on to win her first two starts down the short homestretches at Santa Anita and Del Mar, the significantly longer homestretch at Los Alamitos will surely test her stamina.

It can be difficult to find value in races with just five starters, but since War Heroine figures to be a bit overshadowed in the wagering, my strategy will be to key her on top in the exacta and play  Dream Tree and War Heroine for second. This will keep the investment to a minimum since the payoff could be a bit light.

$10 exacta: 4 with 2,3 ($20 total cost)

Good luck!