MATCHMAKER STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 3 | 1 1/8 MILES
Calumet Farm's Starstruck had gone winless since last year's Grade 3, $170,000 Matchmaker Stakes, but a return to Monmouth for a title defense on Sunday brought out in the best in the daughter of Galileo. Trained by Larry Jones and piloted by Kerwin Clark, the five-year-old burst between foes and kicked 1 ¼ lengths clear.
Starstruck, the 5-1 fourth choice, was rebounding from a scary incident in the July 5 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park. In the thick of contention in the stretch, she was caught in tight quarters, clipped heels, and lost all chance. Starstruck reported home ninth, but was moved up to eighth via disqualification. She didn't have a straw in her path in the Matchmaker.
After a sharp start, jockey Kerwin Clark eased Starstruck back into a midpack position on the inside. Nashly's Vow turned on her customary speed to establish fractions of :24 seconds and :47 ⅕ seconds on the firm turf. She's Not Lazy and Irish Mission accosted the pacesetter rounding the far turn in 1:10 ⅘, and they battled into the stretch.
Starstruck, who had been creeping closer, exploited a huge seam that opened up between the fading Nashly's Vow and She's Not Lazy. Charging through the gap, she drew alongside Irish Mission and quickly put her away to complete 1 ⅛ grassy miles in 1:46 ⅕.
Irish Mission took runner-up honors by from 9-5 favorite Watsdachances, who closed late for third.
The top three finishers receive stallion seasons from sponsor WinStar Farm, with the stallions being 2012 Haskell hero Paynter, Artie Schiller and Drosselmeyer.
She's Not Lazy ended up fourth, followed by Emotional Kitten, who made a big move from last while wide on the far turn before flattening out; Primed for Passion; Medea; Nashly's Vow; Dido; and Lady Aspen. Parting Kiss was scratched.
Starstruck returned $13 to win and boosted her own bankroll to $265,380 from her 18-4-2-3 line. Bred in Ireland by the late Mrs. C.L. Weld, and originally trained by Dermot Weld, Starstruck did not appear on the racecourse until her sophomore season in 2012. The chestnut took six tries to break her maiden, finally accomplishing that in a handicap over Dundalk's Polytrack. She next stepped up to stakes company in the Carlingford at the same course and about 1 5/16-mile trip and checked in a creditable fourth.
Subsequently acquired by Calumet, the chestnut made her first start in the United States last year in an allowance at Churchill Downs, winning by 5 ¼ lengths. Her two ensuing starts likewise came on the Churchill turf, where she placed twice versus similar before her breakthrough in the 2013 Matchmaker. Starstruck rounded out her campaign with a pair of fourths in the Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita and the Cardinal back at Churchill.
Over the winter at Fair Grounds, Starstruck finished third in both the January 18 Marie Krantz Memorial and the February 22 Bayou Handicaps. She was an uncharacteristic fifth, beaten 11 lengths by Somali Lemonade and Watsdachances, in the May 17 Gallorette at Pimlico in her start prior to her mishap at Delaware.
Starstruck was sold for $141,363 as a yearling at Tattersalls October. She is out of English highweight Agnetha, who ranked as the top three-year-old filly sprinter of 2002 on the strength of her victory in the King George at Goodwood. Agnetha is a full sister to German highweight sprinter and sire Areion as well as Irish Group 3-placed stakes scorer Anna Frid.