Sent off as the fourth choice in the field of seven, Celebrity Star, a 5-year-old daughter of Dehere, jumped out to a quick start and sat in second early, putting the pressure on the front-running Joann’s Wildcat, a wire-to-wire winner in three of her previous four starts. After Joann’s Wildcat clocked the first quarter in 23.04 seconds and went a half-mile in 45.70, Celebrity Star, under apprentice Tyler Gaffalione, took command at the top of the stretch. Joann’s Wildcat tried to fight on but could not regain the advantage; she would fade to third.
Celebrity Star drew off handily to register a 3 ½-length win, while Miller Racing’s Best Behavior got up for second. The heavily backed 4-5 favorite Little Alexis also closed to finish fourth.
Trainer David Kassen, who has saddled Celebrity Star in all 10 of her starts, including a six-length allowance score at Gulfstream on Feb. 5 at the same 6 ½-furlong distance of the Sunrise, said he was surprised at how the race played out, as he expected more speed to materialize in the early stages.
“I expected the one (Best Behavior) to have more speed than that and be up there, and we were planning on being about third, but we were laying up there pretty easily,” he said.
Kassen also noted that the spacing between Celebrity Star’s races helped her. The mare hadn’t run since finishing sixth in a 6-furlong allowance at Gulfstream on March 19.
“This filly runs well fresh,” he said. “I was surprised, really. I thought there were some pretty nice fillies in there, but she ran really well. I’m proud of her.”
The win was not only the first stakes victory for Celebrity Star; it was also the first stakes score for Gaffalione, a 5-lb apprentice who began his career at Gulfstream just last September.
“He rode her good,” Kassen said. “He did what we thought he should do. He sat right off of the speed, and [Celebrity Star] ended up being pretty close anyway. He worked it out good.”
Celebrity Star paid $36.80 to win; the final time for the race was 1:16.12. Best Behavior, who opened up at 12-1 on the board but was bet down to the 2-1 third choice, returned $3.80 to place. Joann’s Wildcat paid $3.40 to show.