08/01/2009 12:00AM

Starlarks finds clear path in San Clemente


DEL MAR, Calif. - Starlarks had plenty of bad luck during the winter at Santa Anita but that turned around in Saturday s $150,000 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar.

With a wide rally on the turn, Starlarks outfought Strawberry Tart to win her first stakes in the Grade 2 San Clemente for 3-year-old fillies. The result was quite a change from Starlarks s first three starts in the United States in the winter and spring when she was blocked behind horses in each start.

Traffic is something you can t do anything about, trainer Paddy Gallagher said. She s had some bad trips.

Jockey Alex Solis gave Starlarks a clean journey in the San Clemente. Benefiting from a torrid pace of 21.57 and 45.14 seconds set by 2-1 favorite Carlsbad, Starlarks closed from last in a field of 10 to be within 2 1/2 lengths of then-leader Strawberry Tart with a furlong remaining. Starlarks needed all the stretch to get past Strawberry Tart, who was seeking her third consecutive win.

She got clear in the stretch and kept going, Gallagher said. She seems like she s progressed each time she s run.

Hameildaeme finished third after an incident before the start when she refused to load. Carlsbad, who had not been worse than second in seven starts, faded in the stretch to finish fifth.

Starlarks, owned by Dolantori Racing, has won 4 of 14 starts and $171,237. She was fourth in the Flawlessly Stakes behind Strawberry Tart in her U.S. stakes debut at Hollywood Park last month.