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One Bob Baffert horse pulls up, so another wins the Los Alamitos Starlet Stakes

Jockey Jason Collett rides Varda to victory in the Ranvet Handicap at Rosehill Gardens in Sydney, Australia.
Jockey Jason Collett rides Varda to victory in the Ranvet Handicap in Sydney, Australia, in July. Varda won at Los Alamitos on Saturday.
(Mark Evans / Getty Images)

Bob Baffert had three of the five starters in the Grade 1 $300,000 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos on Saturday. So, it figured he would win, but certainly not the way he expected. The heavy favorite, Princess Noor, was pulled up entering the stretch allowing Varda to win the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-old fillies.

Princess Noor, a $1.35 million purchase, was breezing in front entering the stretch when jockey Victor Espinoza brought the horse to a sudden halt as the race passed them by. An equine ambulance was brought onto the course and the filly, steady on all four legs, walked onto the van.

In this case, the prognosis did not appear as dire as it sometimes can.

“[Espinoza] said he pulled her up right away,” Baffert said. “He said it didn’t look real bad. It was her left front. We’re going to take her back to the barn and have her X-rayed to see what the deal is. I can’t believe it. She was running so easy.”

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Later, Baffert told the Daily Racing Form that X-rays showed no fractures.

“It’s soft tissue,’’ Baffert said. “I don’t know if she hit herself. She’ll be fine. She didn’t break anything.”

The race appeared to be well in hand for Princess Noor, winner of three of her first four races, who had comfortably run just off the leader for the start of the race. But when Princess Noor was pulled up, Varda started to move from the back of the field to close on the outside to win by 1 ½ lengths.

Varda paid $37.80, $8.40 and $5.80. Kalypso, also trained by Baffert, was second followed by Nasreddine and Astute. The winner received 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks.

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“[Varda] had been working really well and she looked like the kind of filly that the farther the better with her, so that’s why we’ve been waiting and waiting with her,” Baffert said.

Astute was a close second-favorite but never put forward a run. Regular jockey Mike Smith tested positive for the coronavirus Friday and was replaced by Flavien Prat.


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