Who Do You Like in the Starlet?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

No trainer has enjoyed more success in the $200,000 Starlet (G2) than Bob Baffert. The Hall of Fame conditioner has won the Starlet a record nine times, including the last six editions in a row.

Three of Baffert's last six winners exited victories in the Desi Arnaz S., a seven-furlong sprint held at Del Mar every November. That bodes well for #1 Nothing Like You, one of two Baffert trainees entered in Saturday's renewal of the Starlet.

The 2023 Starlet has drawn half a dozen entries, and while Nothing Like You isn't the most accomplished, she's arguably the most promising. The daughter of Malibu Moon was beaten in her first three starts sprinting, but she thrived when stretching out for a one-mile maiden special weight on Oct. 14 at Santa Anita, leading every step of the way to beat a pair of next-out maiden winners by 6 1/2 lengths.

This victory marked a turning point for Nothing Like You. When she cut back in distance for the Desi Arnaz, she ran her best race to date, settling as many as 5 1/2 lengths behind a quick pace before rallying to win by a nose. Her beaten rivals included Anoakia S. runner-up Tambo and flashy Keeneland debut winner Royal Slipper.

Nothing Like You's winning time of 1:23.03 produced a 78 Beyer Speed Figure and a 91 Brisnet Speed rating. The Beyer is the highest number in the Los Alamitos field, and the Brisnet Speed rating is the second-highest behind only the 92 posted by #5 Chatalas in the Chandelier (G2).

Nothing Like You has been ridden in both of her victories by hot jockey Juan Hernandez, a 26% winner this year and a 31% winner riding in route races according to Brisnet statistics.  Hernandez also rode the Baffert-trained Starlet entrant #6 Grazia to a debut victory sprinting six furlongs at Del Mar last month, but Hernandez is sticking with Nothing Like You for the Starlet, and we'll take that as a positive sign for Nothing Like You to keep her budding win streak alive.

Grazia is another logical contender. After dueling for the lead in her debut, she kicked away in the homestretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths with decent speed figures of 74 (Beyer) and 85 (Brisnet). But for runner-up honors, I prefer the chances of Chatalas.

Hailing from the barn of Mark Glatt, Chatalas debuted in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight during the summer at Del Mar and tracked a fast pace on her way to victory by half a length. She subsequently misfired in the seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante (G1), weakening to finish fourth after tracking a strong pace, but she bounced back in the 1 1/16-mile Chandelier, leading all the way to beat Scalable by 1 1/2 lengths.

Chatalas was a 23-1 longshot when she stepped up in class for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), and at first glance her distant ninth-place finish was uninspiring. But Chatalas got bounced around between rivals at the start and wound up racing off the pace for the first time in her career, so we'll forgive her for failing to fire under those challenging circumstances. It's worth noting that Scalable finished a decent fifth in the Juvenile Fillies, beaten five lengths while finishing only 1 1/2 lengths behind fourth-place finisher Life Talk, who came back to win the Demoiselle (G2).

Assuming Chatalas gets off to a clean start in the Starlet, she can bounce back to the form of her Chandelier victory and vie for an exacta finish in the Starlet.

#4 Great Forty Eight, #3 Flynn's Chance, and #2 Pacific Rose complete the Starlet field. They ran first, second, and third in a one-mile maiden special weight at Del Mar last month, a fast-paced contest in which Great Forty Eight raced in second for six furlongs before taking over to win by 1 3/4 lengths. She'd previously run second behind Nothing Like You when the latter broke her maiden racing one mile at Santa Anita, so a top-three Starlet finish isn't out of the question for Great Forty Eight.


1st: Nothing Like You
2nd: Chatalas
3rd: Grazia
4th: Great Forty Eight

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Chandelier?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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