SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Star Devine made a strong move from the outside and prevailed by a head in a blanket finish to capture Sunday’s $120,000 Galway for 3-year-old fillies sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on Saratoga Race Course’s Mellon turf.
Lawrence Goichman’s Star Devine notched her first stakes victory, edging Illegal Smile to win for the second time in four career starts.
After a brief delay when Dr B broke through the gate and was re-loaded, Star Devine was sent away from the outermost post under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, stalking the pace in fifth position as Wink led the 10-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 22.13 seconds over firm going.
Out of the turn, Star Devine was kept four-wide with Wink, Mischiefful and Illegal Smile to her inside with the half in 45.20. After briefly running eye-to-eye with Mischiefful, Star Devine pulled away and then gained on the pacesetter under Velazquez’s right-handed encouragement.
Bye Bye made a strong bid up the rail and Illegal Smile, under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., challenged to the wire, but Star Devine outkicked her rivals to complete the course in 1:02.37 for trainer Jorge Abreu.
“I had not much of a choice [but to go to the outside],” Velazquez said. “I tried to cover up behind Irad and he didn’t go in there. Jorge said, ‘I don’t care where you are, I just don’t want you on the lead.’ We got a good post from the outside and I saved it for the end. That’s the way it worked out.”
Star Devine was a debut winner in April at Aqueduct Racetrack before running a competitive fourth in the Grade 3 Soaring Softly in May at Belmont Park. The Irish-bred ran third when stretched out to 1 1/16 miles on the Belmont turf on June 17 but was shortened up for the second running of the Galway while having Velazquez in the irons for the first time.
“I thought she was going to come from a little bit off the pace, but she broke so sharply and Johnny just took advantage of it,” Abreu said. “I knew she was going to run well. She was just looking for a little cut back. She’s better going short than going long.
“I was a little concerned around the turn because I thought he was going to take her back and I thought, ‘Don’t do that’, but then she kicked in again,” Abreu added. “He gave her a good ride.”
Off at 7-1, Star Devine paid $17 on a $2 win bet. The Fastnet Rock filly increased her career bankroll to $127,040 and will now target the 6 1/2-furlong $500,000 Music City on September 12 at Kentucky Downs.
“We’re going to go to Kentucky Downs,” Abreu said. “I’ve had some good luck there and I like going there. We’ll see how she comes out of it and that’s where we’ll aim.”
Illegal Smile, one of two entrants for trainer Wesley Ward along with Wink, bested Bye Bye by a head. It was the fourth time in eight starts [1-4-1] Illegal Smile has finished the runner-up.
“That was so close,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “It was a good race. My filly ran hard and gave me everything she had.”
Mischiefful, Tuscan Queen, Alwayz Late, Wink, Goin’ Good, Li’l Tootsie and Dr B completed the order of finish. What a Trick and main-track only entrant Summer Brew scratched.
The Galway Replay
Live racing resumes Wednesday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring two stakes, starting with steeplechase action via the Grade 1, $150,000 Jonathan Sheppard in the opener at 1:05 p.m. Eastern. The $120,000 Bolton Landing for 2-year-old fillies going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf is carded as Race 9 at 5:39 p.m.
By Brian Bohl/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Star Devine #10 with Velazquez up. (NYRA/Coglianese)