12/15/2007 1:00AM

Country Star's wide rally takes Starlet

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif. - Country Star's decisive move on the turn of Saturday's $431,500 Hollywood Starlet Stakes at Hollywood Park served as a reminder of her lofty status in the 2-year-old filly division of 2007.

Winning her second consecutive Grade 1 stakes, Country Star rallied from fifth on the turn to score a convincing victory by 2 3/4 lengths, finishing 1 1/16 miles in a track record time of 1:40.54.

While the track record for 1 1/16 miles has been lowered several times at this meeting and is something of a fragile milestone, there is nothing flimsy about Country Star, a filly by Empire Maker.

Country Star ($4) was a strong favorite in the Starlet and ran accordingly under jockey Rafael Bejarano. She stalked pacesetters Spritely and Time Reveals All through early fractions 23.38 and 46.25 seconds, and was still in the middle of the nine-filly field on the final turn.

Bejarano asked Country Star for an effort on the turn and quickly got a response with a wide rally. She was hand-ridden to the front passing the furlong marker and was given a few right-handed reminders before pulling clear.

"I was surprised she was so wide," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "It looked like he asked her and she took off and he was pulling her up at the end."

Country Star was well clear of Grace and Power, a minor stakes winner at The Meadowlands who was making her California debut. Grace and Power finished two lengths clear of The Golden Noodle, winner of the Landaluce Stakes for sprinters back in June.

Set Play, the winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante in September, finished fourth, a neck in front of Foxy Danseur, the winner of the Sharp Cat Stakes here in November.

Country Star races for owner-breeders Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable. Country Star has won 2 of 3 starts and $575,900. She won the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland as a maiden in October, and was held out of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in favor of a late fall and winter campaign.

Frankel said that Country Star will be pointed for the Kentucky Oaks in May, with the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 8 as a late winter goal.