The filly Colstar earned a long vacation with an imposing victory in the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes on the turf yesterday at Laurel Park.
The Kentucky-bred daughter of Opening Verse is housed in Middleburg with trainer Paul Fout, but since late summer she has been running on the grass at New York tracks, and thriving. Colstar won twice in four starts at Belmont and Saratoga. Earlier this month, Colstar just missed winning in the Pebbles Handicap, a Grade III stakes race and her first outing against stakes competition. Colstar's second-place finish in that race, however, kept alive her career-long streak of finishing in the money in every start--three wins, two seconds and one third in six outings.
All of those starts have come on grass. With Belmont's closing last week, Fout brought Colstar back home to Middleburg. He decided to give her one more race at Laurel Park, where she got her first two career starts, while the turf track is still being used. And the Martha Washington Stakes, also rated as a Grade III competition, was that race.
The return to Laurel Park meant Alberto Delgado, who rode her in her first two starts but not since, would be back in her saddle. Delgado was thankful for the chance to be back on board.
"I had an opportunity to ride her at Saratoga, but I didn't go," he said. "That was obviously a mistake."
Bettors apparently thought Colstar's impressive streak of in-the money finishes would end yesterday. They sent her off as the fourth choice in the field of nine 3-year-old fillies. When the gates opened in the 1 1/16th-mile race, the longest shot in the field, Chimes Tower, went to the lead. Delgado kept his mount just a length behind the pacesetter, and when Chimes Tower faded halfway through the turn, he asked Colstar to go around her and take control of the race. She did.
Heading down the stretch, Colstar's only competition came from the betting favorite, Polaire, an Irish-bred turf specialist with just one start in North America. Jockey Steve Hamilton's hard ride got Polaire close, but at the wire, it was Colstar by nearly a length.
Colstar finished in 1 minute 45 2/5 seconds--six seconds off the track record--and paid $10.60.
After the race, Colstar's owner and breeder, Beverly Steinman, said that she's traveled to every one of her filly's races, and she didn't intend to see the horse run again until spring.
"She's going to get the winter off now," Steinman said.
Fout, standing a few paces away in the winner's circle, seconded the owner's opinion.
"She's run enough," said Fout. "And a famous trainer once told me, 'Don't squeeze a lemon,' so we're not gong to squeeze her."
Delgado, who probably wouldn't describe his mount as a lemon, said he looks forward to taking Colstar's reins again when she's a 4-year-old.
"She should be a much better horse next year when she fills into her frame," said the jockey. "She just glides across the turf."