Varda rallies for Starlet upset

Dec 06, 2020 Vance Hanson/

Varda, the least fancied of trainer Bob Baffert's three entries in the $300,500 Starlet Stakes (G1), sprung an upset in the 2021 Road to the Kentucky Oaks series prep at Los Alamitos on Saturday, giving Baffert his fourth consecutive win in the race and seventh overall.

The 1 1/16-mile feature was marred, however, when the Baffert-trained Princess Noor, the 3-5 favorite, was abruptly pulled up by jockey Victor Espinoza entering the stretch, having just seized the lead from stablemate Kalypso. Princess Noor held an increasingly growing advantage at the time of the incident and might have gone on to win.

With Princess Noor out of the race, Kalypso regained the lead and held it for much of the long stretch. However, the effects of the honest pace she set earlier — :22.91 and :46.43 — eventually took its toll and Varda was along late to take the top prize by 1 1/2 lengths under Drayden Van Dyke.

Owned by Baoma Corporation, which also campaign 2019 Starlet winner Bast, Varda paid $37.80 after completing 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:44.53. Kalypso was second by four lengths and was followed by Nasreddine, Astute, and the pulled-up Princess Noor.

A debut winner by 3 1/4 lengths going 6 furlongs at Del Mar in late August, Varda was last seen finishing second in the Sept. 26 Chandelier (G1) at Santa Anita, more than eight lengths behind Princess Noor. With the 10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points earned here, Varda's total increased to 14. Kalypso earned four points, Nasreddine two points, and Astute one point.

Bred in New York by Masters 2013 and the Distorted Humor Syndicate, Varda was most recently purchased for $700,000 at the OBS April juvenile sale. A half to two stakes-placed siblings, she's by Distorted Humor and out of She'll Be Right, by Sky Mesa.

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