Magic Touch - By Evan Hammonds

Hardboots will tell you “class is in the dam.” If that’s the case, beware of the future for runners from Chile-based Don Alberto Corp. The mother/son operation of Liliana Solari and Carlos Heller, who have invested heavily in land and bloodstock in the U.S. in recent years, struck again Jan. 11 when their Magic Star closed from sixth to win Gulfstream Park’s Marshua’s River Stakes (G3T).

A Chad Brown-trained 4-year-old filly’s winning a grade 3 on the turf might be old hat considering the trainer’s deep bench, but it was Magic Star’s debut last summer that caught our attention. A $500,000 Keeneland September yearling from the last crop of Scat Daddy, Magic Star had a delayed start to her career but surfaced in the final race on Saratoga’s Travers Day program Aug. 24. Going 1 1/16 miles on the turf, the filly was seven lengths off the lead turning for home, and despite a swift :29.75 final three sixteenths, Magic Star won by 2 1/4 lengths.

We anxiously awaited her next start, but she disappointed in an allowance effort at Belmont in late October. She returned sharp at Gulfstream after a string of works at the Payson Park training center.

“Chad thought she had tons of talent, but early on we had to send her back to the farm to give her some time off,” said Don Alberto director Fernando Diaz-Valdes. “Then, after her maiden win, we were pointing for the American Oaks (G1T, Dec. 28 at Santa Anita), but after the allowance race we decided against that. We were happy she got into the race at Gulfstream.

“It worked out pretty darn well,” he said. “She now has a grade 3 win, and she can move forward…I’m thinking eventually a grade 1 because we believe she’s that caliber.”

Magic Star will have to raise her game to find her rank under Brown’s shedrow, which includes a passel of top turf distaffers, including 2018 turf female champion Sistercharlie.

“That is going to be a problem,” Diaz-Valdes said. “It will be complicated. Maybe it’s Keeneland, Churchill Downs, or New York…or we could go to California where we know she loves firm ground.”

Magic Star will find her spot, as has Don Alberto recently. Making a huge splash a few years ago with the purchase of the former Vinery in Central Kentucky, Heller also has spent liberally on top-end bloodlines. The proof is in the results. The ill-fated Battle of Midway (co-owned with WinStar Farm) ran third in the 2017 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) in the farm’s orange silks with green and white sleeves, and added that year’s Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).

Unique Bella, a $400,000 buy, won three times at the grade 1 level and earned Eclipse Awards in 2017 and 2018.

Don Alberto’s holdings in Central Kentucky number some 120 broodmares.

In Chile the family’s Thoroughbred operation has 400 broodmares spread over two farms. They are also active in the stallion business, having leased several U.S. stallions for duty in Chile, including Constitution (the second-leading first-crop sire of 2019) last year.

Civil disturbances in the nation’s capital, Santiago, last fall have drawn headlines globally. Despite a downturn in the economy, Diaz-Valdes assures us things will be better in the long term. The unrest has not affected the Don Alberto brand, which remains strong. Expect to see more top-end runners here and abroad under the farm’s umbrella.

“We have probably the best horse in Chile, Master Piece (Mastercraftsman—Torre Laguna, by Proud Citizen), running in the Feb. 2 El Derby (G1),” Diaz-Valdes said. “He may be going to the (March 14) Gran Premio Latinoamericano (G1) in Argentina.”

Last year’s Latinoamericano winner, Ya Primo, ventured north to Brown’s barn and ran second in Saratoga’s Bowling Green Stakes (G2T).

However, the class lies with Don Alberto’s fillies.

“We just won the (Chilean) Oaks (G1) with a beautiful filly named Brooke, and she’ll be coming to America in the next few weeks,” Diaz-Valdes reported. “She is by far one of the best fillies we’ve seen in some time.”

Brooke, by the Scat Daddy stallion No Nay Never, out of Bellonce, by Proud Citizen, won Las Oaks by three lengths at Club Hipico in Santiago Dec. 30, getting the about 10 furlongs in 1:57.89.

And Diaz-Valdes also reported Don Alberto’s dual stakes-winning mare Rubilinda, a daughter of Frankel, recently delivered a filly by 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify (by Scat Daddy).

“These are quality horses…and all good additions to the farm,” he said.

Expect the magic to continue.

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