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
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
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.