12/08/2016 2:20PM

American Gal, Union Strike seek clear sailing in Starlet Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
American Gal had a difficult trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she finished third.

Circumstances worked against American Gal and Union Strike in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, with rough trips costing them dearly in the $2 million race.

Both fillies are stakes winners and have a final chance for a lucrative win in 2016 against seven rivals in Saturday’s $300,000 Starlet Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Los Alamitos. The Grade 1 Starlet Stakes is the final major stakes for the division this year and is often a preview of the leading 3-year-old filly races for the winter and spring.

American Gal will be favored in the Starlet, her second start at 1 1/16 miles. She won the minor Anoakia Stakes at six furlongs at odds of 1-10 at Santa Anita in October. Union Strike is the lone Grade 1 winner in the field, having won the Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3.

They are joined on the list of leading prospects by Berned, who was a troubled second in the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes at a mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 5, and Abel Tasman, a two-time winner who will have her stakes debut in the Starlet.


American Gal, by Concord Point
Last 3 Beyers: 72-84-82

◗ Owned by Kaleem Shah, American Gal was seven wide on the first turn of the BC Juvenile Fillies and five wide on the second turn. She closed from eighth on the backstretch to finish third, leaving trainer Bob Baffert to wonder how she would have fared with a better post.

“I don’t know if she would have won if she’d been inside with her speed,” Baffert said. “It was terrible. I nearly scratched her from the 12.”

◗ In the Starlet, American Gal will be ridden by Mike Smith, who was aboard in the BC Juvenile Fillies. Smith is likely to have American Gal near the front. Baffert said he was encouraged when American Gal worked six furlongs in 1:11.80 at Santa Anita on Nov. 29.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 7 American Gal. Trainer Bob Baffert is 28-5-6-3 with a $1.40 ROI over the past five years with juveniles on dirt in their second career route; nine losses at odds of 5-2 or lower. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Union Strike, by Union Rags
Last 3 Beyers: 63-81-69

◗ Everything went right for Union Strike in the Del Mar Debutante at seven furlongs. She closed from sixth in a field of seven to win by a convincing 2 1/4 lengths. In the BC Juvenile Fillies, Union Strike had a rough trip after a slow start in her first start around two turns.

“She didn’t get a chance to run,” said co-owner Mick Ruis. “She had to check twice. The race just got her mad.”

◗ Ruis said the Starlet’s distance will work for Union Strike, particularly because of her breeding.

“She’s a grinder and can run all day long,” he said.

◗ From Ruis’s perspective, Union Strike will win the Starlet and hopefully garner attention for the Eclipse Award for top 2-year-old filly, even though Champagne Room won the BC Juvenile Fillies, the championship race.

“I hope we have a good showing,” heStakes said. “If we win the race, maybe they won’t think too much of the race in the Breeders’ Cup, and we can be considered for the Eclipse Award. We’d have two Grade 1 wins.”

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 2 Union Strike. Earned first career win in the Grade 3 Del Mar Debutante in September, beating a field that included two next-out stakes winners plus Champagne Room, who went on to win the BC Juvenile Fillies.  Click for more details. Mike Hogan

Abel Tasman, by Quality Road
Last 3 Beyers: 78-61-52

◗ Abel Tasman is the only filly in the field on a two-race winning streak, having won a maiden race at a mile at Santa Anita on Sept. 30 and an allowance race at seven furlongs at Del Mar on Nov. 18.

“I think that’s one thing that will work for her is the distance,” trainer Simon Callaghan said. “When she ran seven-eighths, my preference would have been that the race was at a mile.

“I think she’s moving forward, and she’s live. There is no standout.”