Sharp Starr posts 16-1 upset in Empire Distaff

Saturday, October 30th, 2021

Barry K. Schwartz’s Sharp Starr, winner of the Grade 3 Go For Wand last December, scores 16-1 upset in Empire Distaff. NYRA Photo.

By Paul Halloran

Sharp Starr has proven she can compete in open company, winning the Grade 3 Go For Wand Stakes at Aqueduct last December, two months after an out-of-the-money finish in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on the Preakness undercard. Put her with her fellow New York-breds and she is downright formidable.

Making her first start in the state-bred ranks since January, Sharp Starr surged past second-choice Make Mischief in the stretch and rolled to a 3 1/4-length victory in the $250,000 Empire Distaff Handicap on Empire Showcase Day at Belmont Park. Favorite Ice Princess got up for second in the 1 1/16-mile race over a sloppy track.

“It was good to see her come back to form. We’ve always liked her,” trainer Horacio DePaz said. “We just started her back up. We gave her a little break during the summer and now she’s back.”

Trinni Luck broke sharply from the far outside and cleared the field, leading through fractions of :23.18 and :46.61. She was confronted by Make Mischief at the quarter pole and called it a day, fading to ninth. No sooner did Make Mischief grab the lead did Sharp Starr, a 16-1 shot who was ninth after a half-mile, appear on the scene and take command. She stopped the clock in 1:44.23.

“I rode her a while back and she was always a come-from-behind horse to me,” jockey Jose Ortiz said. “I always rode her like that and lately she’s been a little more keen and more aggressive. Today, I just kept her quiet in the post parade. I didn’t anticipate I was going be that far back, but I didn’t panic. The track is bad, so I just let her get her footing and move little by little around the half-mile pole and she was there for me every step of the way.”

Sharp Starr, bred by owner Barry Schwartz at his Stonewall Farm in Westchester County, returned from the five-month freshening on Aug. 26 at Saratoga, going to the lead and running fifth in an open optional. She was off another two months before the Empire Distaff.

“She was competitive in the race at Saratoga,” DePaz said. “It was just a tough field and going seven-eighths up there, she was a little bit closer to the pace than we thought she would be. She probably just needed the race and she was training really well into this race. I was hopeful that she would come back to form.”

The daughter of Munnings out of the A.P. Indy mare Mindy Gold did that and then some Saturday, perhaps earning an opportunity to defend her Go For Wand title Dec. 4 at Aqueduct.

“It’s definitely a possibility,” DePaz said. “She handled the mile and a sixteenth fine here, so we’ll see what her perfect distance will be. We’ll keep that race under consideration.”

Sharp Starr’s victory gave Munnings progeny their 17th stakes win in 2021, more than any stallion except for Into Mischief (24). Munnings won three Grade 2 stakes in his 14-race career, including the Woody Stephens and Tom Fool at Belmont in 2009. Mindy Gold, who was winless in seven starts, produced Papa Shot, a New York-bred by Distorted Humor, who won nine races and earned more than $510,000 in a 39-race career from 2015-19.

The $137,500 winner’s share brought Sharp Starr’s career earnings to $348,295 with a record of 4-3-3 from 14 starts and 3-3-2 in nine starts against state-breds.

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