Updated on 09/15/2011 12:14PM

All the Temple's a stage for 'Superstar'


All eyes will be on the jet-propelled filly Superstar Leo when she steps out onto Sandown's five-furlong straight course a week from Monday in the Group 2 Temple Stakes.

Superstar Leo, Europe's 2000 juvenile filly champion, earned the respect of Longchamp's international crowd on Arc Day last Oct. 1 when she chased home European sprint champ Namid in the Prix de l'Abbaye. She had previously beaten colts of her own age in the Flying Childers Stakes after having finished second to European 2-year-old champion Minardi in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes.

It was after she had beaten colts in the Group 3 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot that she was purchased by Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Lael Stable in Pennsylvania. Throughout the summer and early autumn the Jacksons toyed with the idea of bringing her to America, but the lack of suitable turf races here for 3-year-old fillies, coupled with the rich sprint program on turf in Europe, compelled them to keep her with trainer Bill Haggas at his Somerville Lodge yard in Newmarket.

That decision pleased Superstar Leo's co-breeder Lester Piggott no end. The legendary jockey had not been happy when the consortium of which he is a member, the Superstar Leo Partnership, sold her to the Jacksons.

Piggott had developed an affection for the filly, especially as his last Royal Ascot winner, in tandem with Vincent O'Brien, had come aboard her sire College Chapel in the 1993 Cork and Orrery Stakes. Moreover, in Haggas she was being trained by his son-in-law, the husband of his daughter, Maureen.

All's well that end's well, however. The Jacksons are happy to have Superstar Leo in England while Piggott, although no longer an owner, can still be close to a horse he bred.

"At first, Superstar Leo was going to go straight to Royal Ascot again for the King's Stand Stakes," said Roy Jackson, "but the wet weather they've been having in England this year slowed her preparation, so Bill Haggas decided that she would need a race before the King's Stand."

The King's Stand is the Royal Meeting's premier sprint event. Like the Temple it is a five-furlong Group 2 contest, but it attracts the same type of horse who will later run in the two big European five-furlong Group 1's, the Nunthorpe Stakes and the Prix de l'Abbaye.

Haggas may keep his stable starlet to the minimum distance, but he will be tempted to try her at six furlongs, at which Superstar Leo has been nominated in the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket three weeks after the June 19 King's Stand. Her effort at Ascot will determine whether or not the diminutive filly will take her chance at the longer distance.

Superstar Leo is not the only filly for whom Lael has high hopes. The Jacksons recently bought Softly Tread, an undefeated daughter of Tirol who is the current favorite for the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh on May 27, the day before the Temple Stakes.

Softly Tread could be as special as Superstar Leo. Trained by Con Collins at The Curragh, she began her career with nose victories in a maiden and the listed Tyros Stakes against colts last summer. She then earned the Jacksons' attention with a two-length tally in the seven-furlong Group 3 Gladness Stakes at the Curragh on April 22, after which she was purchased from Antonio Balzarini. Her Gladness victory was noteworthy for two reasons. It was had at the expense of older colts, and it is the race in which the redoubtable Giant's Causeway kicked off his 3-year-old campaign last year.

Softly Tread, like Superstar Leo, could eventually race in America, but for the time being they will both remain in Europe. In fact, should Softly Tread succeed in the Irish 1000, she could have a Royal Ascot date of her own in the Coronation Stakes on June 22.

Lael's European arsenal also includes a possible Epsom Derby runner. Their James Fanshawe-trained Grand Lodge colt Grandera, whom they own in partnership with Victoria Shelton, was just a half length second to Team Valor's Belmont Stakes-bound Dr Greenfield in the listed Dee Stakes on May 10.

Fallout in France

The split between two of France's most powerful racing personalities, owner Daniel Wildenstein and trainer Andre Fabre, has produced fallout that could affect the career of France's ace rider Olivier Peslier.

On Thursday, Peslier announced that Fabre had placed him under "temporary suspension," a move by Fabre that apparently stems from Peslier's contract to ride first string for Wildenstein, who removed all of his 42 horses from Fabre's care earlier this week.

Peslier has been riding horses for Fabre other than those owned by Wildenstein for years. Now it appears that Fabre is forcing the 28-year-old rider to chose between trainer and owner.

Peslier and Fabre had scheduled a meeting for Friday night, at which it is hoped that all custody questions will be resolved.