05/05/2005 12:00AM

Seek a Star wins La Troienne Stakes


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - On the four-year anniversary of Monarchos' victory in the 2001 Kentucky Derby, his winning connections - jockey Jorge Chavez, trainer John Ward Jr., and owner John Oxley - celebrated another graded stakes victory at Churchill Downs. Their representative in Thursday's $114,200, Grade 3 , Seek a Star, proved a dominant winner in her stakes debut, scoring by 2.75 lengths before a crowd of 22,020 at Churchill Downs.

In contrast to the late-running Monarchos, Seek a Star took command early. She went to the front and established a pressured pace with fractions of 22.44 seconds, 44.81, and 1:09.43, turned back a challenge to her inside and outside in early stretch, and drew away late.

55-1 longshot Cool Spell rallied belatedly for second, finishing 1.25 lengths in front of Hot Storm, who had pressured the winner for much of the race.

Culinary, Aspen Tree, Kota, She's That Cat, Punch Appeal, and Our Kes completed the order of finish.

Aspen Tree, the 9-5 favorite, loomed when making a menacing move leaving the turn, but flattened out in the stretch, losing by 5.5 lengths.

Seek a Star ($7.40), a 3-year-old daughter of Mutakddim, won her third straight race in the La Troienne. She raced 7.5 furlongs on a fast track in 1:28.75 - about a half second off Friendly Michelle's 1:28.26 clocking in this race last year, the only other time the La Troienne was run at 7.5 furlongs.

Ward said the key to her winning streak has been improved gate performance. In her first two races, both losses, she broke poorly. She had no such difficulties in the La Troienne, breaking on top.

"She came of age today," Ward said of Seek a Star. "She showed the talent I always thought she had."

Tougher tests lay ahead for Seek a Star, whom Oxley purchased out of the Keeneland 2-year-olds in training sale for $160,000 in the spring of last year. Ward said the June 4 Acorn Stakes at Belmont, a Grade 1 at a mile, is a logical next race. Ward won that race in 2001 with Forest Secrets, who he trained for Oxley's wife, Debby.