12/09/2012 6:02PM

Hollywood Park: Oaklawn likely next destination for Pure Fun

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Pure Fun, winning her first stakes in the Hollywood Starlet under Garrett Gomez, is likely to begin her 3-year-old campaign at Oaklawn Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Pure Fun began her 2012 season in a $30,000 maiden claimer for sprinters at Churchill Downs in June, a race in which she was a soundly beaten fifth.

She ended the season on Saturday with a victory in the $500,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park, a win that gives her a leading role in the buildup to the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 3.

Pure Fun closed from last in a field of eight to win the Grade 1 Starlet by a length over the recent maiden race winner Blonde Fog. Executiveprivilege, a two-time Grade 1 winner earlier this year, could only finish fourth in the Starlet as the 2-5 favorite.

Pure Fun, who races for trainer Ken McPeek and the Magdalena Racing partnership, won her first stakes in the Starlet. She was ridden by Garrett Gomez, and ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.65.

“It sets her up for life when you get a Grade 1,” McPeek said after Saturday’s race.

Pure Fun seemed far from a candidate for a Grade 1 win as recently as October. She finished seventh after a troubled trip in the Grade 3 Jessamine Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Keeneland on Oct. 11, but was only beaten 1 1/4 lengths as a 58-1 shot.

After a second in an allowance race on turf at Keeneland on Oct. 20, Pure Fun won an optional claimer over a mile on the main track at Churchill Downs by 9 1/4 lengths on Nov. 24, a victory that justified the $20,000 investment to supplement her to the Starlet Stakes.

“We ran her short early in the year and then we stretched her out on the turf,” McPeek said. “We didn’t have any dirt races to choose from. When we put her on the dirt her numbers were better.”

McPeek watched the Starlet on television and said the style of Pure Fun’s late kick left him “a little worried. “I was concerned,” he said.
“When she came around the corner it was pretty exciting.”

For the victory, Pure Fun earned 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks. Churchill Downs has a new points-based system to determine the field for the 2013 Kentucky Oaks.

Pure Fun, who is by Pure Prize, races without Lasix. McPeek said she does not train on the medication and has “never had a drop in her life.”

This winter, Pure Fun is likely to be sent to Oaklawn Park. The top races for 3-year-old fillies there are both over 1 1/16 miles – the $150,000 Honeybee on March 9 and the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes on April 10.
“We’re leaning toward Arkansas,” McPeek said. “Nothing is set in stone.”

No physical excuse for Executiveprivilege’s flop

Executiveprivilege emerged from the race without mishap and will be pointed for the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, trainer Bob Baffert said on Sunday.

The winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante and Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes in September, Executiveprivilege made her first start in the Starlet since a second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Had she won the Starlet she could have gained support for the title of champion 2-year-old filly.

Executiveprivilege finished 5 1/2 lengths behind Pure Fun. She was second behind pacesetter Blonde Fog entering the stretch but could not sustain the threat in the final furlong.

“She’s fine,” Baffert said. “She didn’t bleed or anything. She just didn’t fire.

“I’ll freshen her up a little bit.”

The two leading races for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita are the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes over a mile on March 2 and the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks over 1 1/16 miles on April 6.