06/22/2001 11:00PM

Colstar repeats the feat

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One year after winning the Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs, Colstar successfully defended her title with a half-length victory over Solvig in the Grade 3, $172,800 race.

Saving ground throughout under jockey Jon Court, Colstar tracked the pace in fifth, as longshot Alybgood set reasonable splits of 23.97 seconds, 48.10, and 1:12.14. She re-mained fifth until the top of the lane, when she outclosed Solvig with a final furlong in under 12 seconds. Megans Bluff was third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Solvig.

Colstar raced 1 1/8 miles over a firm course in 1:48.79 before a crowd of 10,471. She carried high weight of 121 pounds and spotted the opposition up to 13 pounds.

Colstar ($6.20), a 5-year-old daughter of Opening Verse trained by Paul Fout, won for the 10th time in 17 starts. She improved her earnings to $978,056 for owner Beverly Steinman.

Unlike last year when Colstar won the Locust Grove as a relative unknown, this time the public was well aware of her virtues. Although she had finished fifth in her preceding start, the Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap at Pimlico, she was made the 2-1 favorite on the basis of her four wins from last season - which included the Grade 1 Flower Bowl.

Solvig, a two-time graded winner last season, rallied to test Colstar late but could not outfinish her through the drive. Megans Bluff also ran well in defeat, remaining competitive despite a wide trip.