06/25/2016 8:27PM

Bronze Star wire-to-wire Oak Tree Handicap winner

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Shane Miceli/Vassar Photography
Bronze Star, ridden by Ricardo Gonzalez, gives trainer Jerry Hollendorfer his third win on the card in the Oak Tree Handicap.

Bronze Star, the lone speed in the field with the scratch of stablemate Southern Freedom, led every step of the way as he captured his stakes debut Saturday in the $54,875 Oak Tree Handicap in the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.

Jockey Ricardo Gonzalez relaxed the 4-year-old Bronze Star ($8.60)  nicely while racing evenly throughout the 1 1/16-mile race. He was never seriously challenged through early fractions of 23.27 seconds, 48.75, and 1:10.87 while defeating Crittenden by 1 1/4 lengths in 1: 42.87.

He’s a Pepper was third, another three-quarters of a length back. The favored Eagle Screams, runner-up in the 2015 Oak Tree Handicap, faded to seventh after getting a good stalking trip.

Owner-trainer Jerry Hollendorfer paid $500,000 for Bronze Star, a son of Tapit, at the September 2013 Keeneland yearling sale. The victory was worth $32,400, increasing Bronze Star’s bankroll to $118,430. It was his third career victory after scoring his second win in his previous start, a June 3 allowance win on turf at Golden Gate Fields.

The stakes victory for Hollendorfer was his third straight win at the Pleasanton track. He also had three straight winners earlier in the day at Santa Anita.