12/13/2014 7:41PM

Take Charge Brandi stays red-hot in Starlet

Benoit and Associates
Take Charge Brandi, ridden by Victor Espinoza, scores by a half-length in the Grade 1 Starlet on Saturday.

CYPRESS, Calif. – Take Charge Brandi won her third consecutive lucrative stakes in Saturday’s $350,500 Starlet at Los Alamitos, a win that clinches the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding 2-year-old filly of 2014.

Similar to her win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 1, Take Charge Brandi repelled a late threat to win the Grade 1 Starlet.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Take Charge Brandi set a modest early pace and held off three rivals in Feathered, Maybellene, and Majestic Presence, who each looked as if they would go by the leader through the long stretch.

At the wire, Take Charge Brandi ($4.60) won the Starlet over 1 1/16 miles by a half-length over Feathered, who was fourth in the BC Juvenile Fillies. Feathered, a 2-1 chance trained by Todd Pletcher, surged closer to Take Charge Brandi in the final 50 yards and was nearest the winner at the wire.

Maybellene, a 15-1 longshot trained by Bob Baffert, was within a length of Take Charge Brandi through the final furlong and ran well to the finish. Majestic Presence, an 8-1 shot trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, was within a half-length of Take Charge Brandi with a furlong remaining but could not keep pace late, losing by 2 1/4 lengths.

Take Charge Brandi was timed in 1:42.18. The victory was a record eighth career win in the Starlet for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Seven of those wins came at Hollywood Park, which ran the Starlet Stakes until it was closed for development in 2013.

Espinoza rode Take Charge Brandi in the $1,840,000 BC Juvenile Fillies. Paco Lopez rode Take Charge Brandi to a win in the $400,000 Delta Downs Princess Stakes in Louisiana on Nov. 22. Lukas and Espinoza knew that Take Charge Brandi’s best chance in the Starlet was to have an uncontested lead, and for Espinoza to give the filly as quiet of a ride as possible.

“It’s pretty hard to stay with her,” Lukas said. “She likes to be left alone. We don’t try to be active.”

Take Charge Brandi set a modest pace of 23.64 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.68 for the first half-mile. She led by a length over Maybellene down the backstretch. While the race tightened late, Lukas said his faith did not waver.

“I thought she wouldn’t disappoint,” Lukas said.

Majestic Presence was followed in the order of finish by Achiever’s Legacy, Danette, and Don’t Blame Me.

Take Charge Brandi, by Giant’s Causeway, has won 4 of 8 starts and earned $1,620,126. Owned by Willis Horton, Take Charge Brandi beat maidens in her debut at Churchill Downs in June but lost her next four starts in graded stakes in New York and Kentucky before the 61-1 upset win in the BC Juvenile Fillies.

Take Charge Brandi has not been beaten since, moving to the fore of the nation’s 2-year-old filly division.