OZONE PARK, NY – Grade 3-winner Sharp Starr will turn back one furlong in her next start after a third-place effort in the nine-furlong Bay Ridge last time out. Trained by Horacio De Paz for owner Barry Schwartz, the New York-homebred was beaten 4 1/2 lengths in the Bay Ridge on December 30 after tracking in fourth.
“She came out of the Bay Ridge in good order, but the race didn’t set up for her pace wise,” De Paz said. “There wasn’t much pace and how they broke is how they stayed. Trying her at a mile may suit her better.”
The daughter of Munnings put together a competitive 2021 campaign, starting the year with a runner-up effort in the La Verdad in January at the Big A and continuing on to an open-lengths victory in the Empire Distaff in October at Belmont Park.
Sharp Starr raced from well off the pace over a sloppy and sealed main track in the Empire Distaff, breaking last of 10 while trailing pacesetter Trinni Luck by eight lengths in the 1 1/16-mile test, before steadily making up ground through the turn under Jose Ortiz en route to a 3 1/4-length score.
De Paz said that while the win was impressive, it also left him puzzled.
“She’s always shown up and had ability, but she kind of confuses us,” De Paz said. “She had been running really good at seven furlongs to a mile, and then she ran [in the Empire Distaff] going a mile and a sixteenth from off the pace. It was completely different than she had been running and she made a nice run. We’re really just trying to figure out what her distance will be, but she’s got class.”
The 5-year-old bay was nominated to Saturday’s seven-furlong Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park, but De Paz said she will instead point to state-bred company at the Big A sometime in March.
“I didn’t know if the seven furlongs would be her absolute best, so I want to try her in a mile race against New York-breds in March,” De Paz said.
Take a Shot Stables, East Coast Partners and Liberty House Racing’s Courageous Girl, a 5-year-old daughter of Bourbon Courage, has proven to be an astute acquisition for De Paz, finishing in the money in each of her five starts since being claimed for $35,000 at Saratoga Race Course in August.
Bred in the Empire State by Brady Horse Racing and RUSBA V Stables, Courageous Girl earned her first win for new connections in a state-bred optional claimer in October at Belmont. She stepped up to stakes company in the restricted La Verdad in January, finishing third behind multiple stakes winner Bank Sting.
“She has maintained her form well. She had some back class and we had run against her before with Sharp Starr. We knew her and she has matured into herself,” said De Paz. “Things have worked out for her and she places herself in her races.”
Courageous Girl faced another talented opponent last out, setting the pace under Manny Franco in an optional claimer and matching strides with the Chad Brown-trained Default Protection entering the turn. After losing her advantage, the dark bay stayed on well to hold place honors two lengths clear of Honey Money in third.
“I was very encouraged by her running second in that allowance. It was a solid group and Chad’s filly was the obvious horse to beat,” said De Paz. “I told Manny to ride his race and forget about that filly. It gave me a little bit of hope when they hooked up, but then the other filly just took off. I’m happy because she tries every time. We’ll still try the a-other-than again and if she wins, I’ll try another stakes down the road.”
Multiple stakes-placed Our Man Mike returns in Race 6 on Sunday at the Big A after providing De Paz with his second win of the year in a state-bred allowance on January 14. The gelded son of Street Boss has found his best form as a sprinter after trying route distances last year.
The 4-year-old dark bay showed class early on, earning a pair of stakes placings at Finger Lakes as a juvenile before subsequently graduating at Aqueduct last April.
“He ran very well in those stakes up at Finger Lakes and then last year was kind of an experimental campaign to stretch him out and see if he would set up closer to the pace,” De Paz said. “He’s coming into the race in good order. He’s very consistent when he runs and with how he comes out of his races. He’s a solid horse. Sprinting seems to be what he wants to do.”
Aqueduct Racetrack Week 11 stakes probables
Saturday, February 26
Probable: Green Light Go (Jimmy Jerkens), Milton The Monster (John Servis), Pirate’s Punch (William Morey), Waxman (Todd Pletcher)
Possible: Bodecream (Jeffrey Englehart), Empty Tomb (Robert Falcone, Jr.), Hanalei’s Houdini (Mike Maker), Risk Taking (Chad Brown), Sound Money (Chad Brown)
Aqueduct Barn Notes/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Sharp Starr wins the Empire Distaff/Susie Rashier NYRA