09/21/2013 5:35PM

Belmont: Cluster of Stars stays perfect by taking Gallant Bloom

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Cluster of Stars, ridden by Javier Castellano, wins her sixth consecutive race in the Gallant Bloom Handicap.

Another year, another layoff winner in the Gallant Bloom Handicap for Steve Asmussen, as Cluster of Stars returned from an absence of better than five months to lead the Grade 2 sprint at Belmont Park from start to finish, emulating what former stablemate Dust and Diamonds did off a two-month absence a year ago.

Unbeaten and unraced since taking the Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct in mid-April, Cluster of Stars ($8.20) stretched her perfect record to six wins from as many starts after quickly sprinting clear from the inside post and taking advantage of what has been a very live rail beneath meet-leading Javier Castellano, who was notching the fourth of his five wins on the program.

“I had a beautiful trip,” said Castellano, who is putting in a late-season push to try and overtake Joel Rosario for Eclipse Award honors. “Breaking out of the gate, this filly had a lot of speed, but she was able to relax. I had a lot of confidence in her. I know she’s a very classy filly and we’ve had success together in the past. I wasn’t worried about the layoff. The combination of the speed holding today and drawing the rail was an advantage for me today.”

Cluster of Stars, a 4-year-old New York-bred filly, carried 117 pounds, receiving four pounds from top-weighted Dance to Bristol, the 2-1 favorite who gave futile chase while racing four wide and saw her win snapped at seven, but saved the place over Dance Card. Dance Card was making her first start since winning what was then the Grade 1 Gazelle at Aqueduct last Nov. 24, and was also well clear from fourth finisher Holiday Soiree. The order of finish was completed by Classic Point, Crespano, Munnings Sister, and Defy Gravity.

Cluster of Stars did not threaten Dust for Diamonds’s stakes record of 1:14.71 for 6 1/2 furlongs, but cut fractions of 22.16 seconds, 45.43, and 1:09.39 enroute to a final time of 1:15.75, the fourth-fastest time in 19 runnings of the race at the current distance. Dust and Diamonds went on to finish second to odds-on Groupie Doll in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, but Cluster of Stars is not Breeders’ Cup-nominated.

“She’s never done anything wrong, and she continues to improve, be right there against good horses, and do the right things,” said assistant trainer Toby Sheets.