By Sarah Mace
Chester and Mary Broman’s Highway Star (Girolamo) prolonged a run of graded victories by New York-bred homebreds on Wood Memorial weekend when she rallied down the center of the track Sunday to win the Big A’s Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff Handicap at seven furlongs. On Saturday, Long Haul Bay was an impressive winner of the Grade 3 Bay Shore, followed two races later by Send It In’s determined score in the Grade 3 Excelsior.
Highway Star, who last Monday was honored in Saratoga as the 2016 New York-bred champion 3-year-old filly, was already a Grade 3 winner, having posted a nose victory in the Go For Wand on December 3. She was also a perfect two-for-two over the Aqueduct main track, preceding the Go For Wand score by a win in the Staten Island division of the New York Stallion Stakes (NYSS).
Coming off an 8-week freshening after finishing well back in fourth in the Ladies Handicap on January 13, Highway Star was reunited Sunday with Angel Arroyo, aboard for both prior stakes wins. The 4-year-old stalker-closer was relatively neglected by bettors who made her fifth choice in a competitive group of six, despite the fact that the field was loaded with speed.
After the break, Highway Star settled at the rail in fourth from gate two, three lengths behind the longshot early pacesetter Kelsocait (15-1), who clocked an opening quarter mile in 22.46.
Previously undefeated Clipthecouponannie, who pressed the pace, challenged successfully for the lead rounding the far turn, while completing a half-mile in 45.16. Indulgent, who is Frosted’s well-regarded half sister, advanced into second to her outside. Meanwhile, Highway Star worked her way off the fence into the two path.
With Indulgent and Clipthecouponannie left to collar, Highway Star drew closer, but was forced yet wider into the six path, as the other fillies drifted out.
Indulgent took over the lead from Clipthecouponannie in the final furlong, but with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go, Highway Star made a perfectly-timed final bid, cruising past her rival in the closing strides on her way to a half-length win. After six furlongs in 1:09.37, her final time for seven panels was a swift 1:22.25. [VIDEO REPLAY]
“She was really comfortable,” said pilot Angel Arroyo. “I broke and got a good trip and stayed behind the speed. In the stretch, when she switched leads, she went great. She loves seven furlongs, she likes the distance.”
Trainer Rodrigo Ubillo said, “We’re happy. She’s a nice filly. I was just hoping they’d go fast up front but she can adapt to any pace scenario really. It certainly helped they went fast and she was able to wear them down. Her last race [the Ladies Handicap on January 13], she was in heat and maybe she didn’t like the smaller [inner] track, but we took our time. We know her ability and took her time to bring her back and you see the result.”
Highway Star, who has now won six of nine lifetime starts and finished third once, began her career at three with back-to-back victories at Belmont last May and July. Unplaced in her first stakes try, the Statue of Liberty division of the NYSS at Saratoga, she finished third in the Fleet Indian at the Spa before reeling off wins in a second-level allowance race, the Staten Island and Go For Wand. Highway Star has earned $464,000.
The chestnut filly is one of three winners, and only stakes winner, out of Stolen Star, a multiple stakes-placed homebred for the Bromans, who is also a half sister to their multiple stakes winner and Friend or Foe, now a sire.
Highway Star’s sire Girolamo, a Grade 1-winning son of A.P. Indy owned by Darley, began his stud career in 2012 at Becky Thomas and Dennis Narlinger’s Sequel Stallions New York before relocating to Kentucky.