Updated on 09/16/2011 8:52AM

Bayakoa soft spot for Starrer

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Five starts against the top fillies in the nation have prepared Starrer for a defense of her crown in the Grade 2, $150,000 at Hollywood Park on Sunday.

This year Starrer has chased Azeri in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Vanity Handicap, and Lady's Secret Handicap on the West Coast. In two trips to the East, she finished behind Summer Colony in the Delaware Handicap and Personal Ensign Handicap.

There is no such threat in the Bayakoa, where Starrer figures to be favored.

Run over 1 1/16 miles, the Bayakoa has the smallest purse and the weakest field that Starrer has faced this year.

"She's showed up and run in a lot of tough spots," trainer John Shirreffs said.

Starrer is the 118-pound highweight and the most accomplished of the seven runners in the Bayakoa. A winner of 3 of 17 starts and $653,033 for owner George Krikorian, Starrer is seeking her fourth stakes win. Starrer has yet to win for Shirreffs. She was trained by David Hofmans last year and transferred to Shirreffs last winter.

"She's had a short year," Shirreffs said. "She didn't get to start that many times because she came in late. She had to play a little bit of catch-up."

Starrer will be ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, and drew the outside post in the Bayakoa. Valenzuela was aboard for a runner-up finish in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 2 and a fourth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

Netherland, who carries 115 pounds, is expected to set the pace. She led throughout to win the Piedra Foundation Stakes at Del Mar in the summer, but was seventh in the Lady's Secret Handicap behind Azeri and Starrer.

Two runners are coming off stakes wins. Angel Gift won the Golden Poppy Handicap at Bay Meadows on Oct. 27, her first stakes win. Fourth in the Lady's Secret Handicap, Angel Gift could be a threat with a repeat of her last race.

Cee's Elegance is taking a jump in class following her victory in the Cat's Cradle Handicap against California-breds on Nov. 24. She can race close to the pace and could be an early threat to Netherland.

Ideally, Shirreffs would like to see Starrer in midpack, tracking the pacesetters.

"She needs to get into the race," Shirreffs said. "She doesn't to have a pace in the front of her, but she needs to get involved."

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