- Sunday’s Grade 1 Starlet at Hollywood for two-year old fillies is a bit of a handicapping puzzle, as most of the contenders are stretching out in distance and/or stepping up sharply in class. The likely favorite is Balance (Thunder Gulch), winner of the inaugural Sharp Cat stakes at the same mile and a sixteenth route. Her trainer David Hofmans feels that "If she runs that race again, it should be enough." [Thoroughbred Time] Perhaps. We just don’t know if one of the others can step up, but if Balance is indeed the betting choice, it could be worth a shot to go against her. No doubt she was visually impressive in the Sharp Cat, pulling Victor Espinoza to the lead and holding sway without too much urging. But it wasn’t the greatest field in the world, and the fact that she was the 9-5 favorite despite it being her first dirt race after two turf efforts attests to that.
The two fillies that ran one-two in the seven furlong Moccasin stakes, Private World (Thunder Gulch) and True Xena (Yes It’s True), return here for their first efforts around two turns. Private World’s trainer Bob Hess, Jr., said "If she's within range of doing it, I think she'll have the heart. In terms of her heart and desire, I don't think she'll be outdone." [Daily Racing Form] That’s apparent to anyone who watched her gritty win in the Moccasin; she looked beaten by True Xena in deep stretch, but battled back on the inside to win by an imperceptible head-bobbing nose. The presence of distance influences like Temperance Hill and Storm Bird close up in her breeding suggests she may go on. For True Xena, the Moccasin was just her second race, coming off her maiden win, and she gave no ground despite suffering the heartbreaking defeat. Being out of an Unbridled mare should add some stamina to her speedy sire line breeding.
But hey, I’m just filling some space before getting to Meetmeinthewoods (General Meeting). She’s stepping up to Grade 1 company from a six furlong maiden win, but that race was so spectacular that it needs no further explanation. Please check it out on the Cal Racing site if you haven’t yet seen it. Meetmeinthewoods was wedged between horses down the backstretch, which could present a problem for an ordinary first-time starter, but she was unfazed as she effortlessly, and I mean effortlessly, edged to the lead around the turn and drew away in the stretch. Jockey Corey Nakatani expended far more energy looking behind him throughout the race than he did riding this filly, yet she threw in an eighth of :11 4/5 leaving the quarter pole, and then cruised home in :12 3/5 under a long hold, according to the chart. And this was after an opening quarter of :21 3/5! This all added up to a final time of 1:08 3/5.
As far as trying this distance, trainer Doug O’Neill concedes that it’s “a mystery".
"The only blessing is the General Meeting angle," he said, referring to her sire. "She's built like a router and covers a lot of ground. We've been high on her since the first time we breezed her." [Daily Racing Form]General Meeting is by Seattle Slew, and she has plenty of distance influence close up in her pedigree (Alydar, Nijinsky, Nureyev, Buckpasser), and a tidy dosage index of 2.06. Having seen that debut, I can’t help but be all over her on Sunday if she's not too short of a price.