Faiza Outduels Pride of the Nile in Starlet

Bloodhorse, Byron King

The 2-year-old daughter of Girvin raced 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.49 under Flavien Prat.

Michael Lund Petersen’s Faiza outdueled a stubborn Pride of the Nile and survived a stewards’ inquiry to win the $300,500 Starlet Stakes (G1) by a head Dec. 10 at Los Alamitos Race Course.

Her head victory gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a record ninth win in the stakes race and a sixth straight. The Starlet was initially run at Hollywood Park before that track’s closure, after which the race was moved to Los Alamitos.

Baffert’s ninth win moved him out of a tie with fellow Hall of Famer and eight-time winner D. Wayne Lukas.

In a post-race in-house television interview, Baffert credited the 87-year-old Lukas, who he said became one of the greatest Thoroughbred trainers ever after his initial involvement with Quarter Horses. He added that Lukas opened doors for other trainers, such as himself.

“It just means a lot to me—Los Alamitos—(and) to win this race at many times,” Baffert added. “It just shows the clientele that I have. Without the clientele, I could have never done it, and I’ve got a great staff that works with me. It’s a team effort.”

Michael Lund Petersen & Faiza and jockey Flavien Prat, outside, hold off Pride of the Nile (Juan Hernandez) to win the Grade I $300,000 Starlet Stakes Saturday, December 10, 2022 at Los Alamitos Race Course, Cypress, CA.

The inquiry, which lasted several minutes, appeared to largely involve bumping at the head of the stretch. The 1-2 finishers both appeared to make contact with pacesetter Doinitthehardway , who ultimately faded to fourth. Uncontrollable was third. The 3-4 finishers checked in well behind the top two, with Pride of the Nile 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Uncontrollable and Doinitthehardway three-quarters of a length farther back in fourth. Blessed Touch ran fifth.

 “She traveled well the entire way. She switched leads at the head of the stretch, and there was a little bumping, but I really didn’t feel anything,” said Prat. “Both her and (Pride of the Nile) ran very hard to the wire.”

Doinitthehardway took the worst of the bumping at the head of the lane, taking inside contact from Pride of the Nile, who had drifted out after making an inside turn rally and then brushing from a drifting-in Faiza.

The winner raced three wide around both turns when stalking the pace in third for much of the 1 1/16-mile Starlet, as Doinitthehardway set splits of 23.36 and :47.87, under pressure from Classymademoiselle , who began to retreat on the second turn on her way to running last of six.

After a troubled start, Pride of the Nile got back into the race and gave Faiza a scare by refusing to cave when passed in early stretch. A half-length back with an eighth of a mile to run, she cut into that margin over the final furlong under urging from jockey Juan Hernandez.

Faiza, a 2-year-old daughter of Girvin   bred by Brereton Jones out of the Smart Strike mare Sweet Pistol, was timed in 1:44.49 on a fast track. She paid $3 to win in improving to 2-for-2 after a debut victory when racing six furlongs Nov. 12 at Del Mar.

“(Faiza) has always shown she’s a special filly, and she had to be special today to win just off one maiden race,” Baffert said. “She’s still green, but I think she has a big future in front of her. I think she’s going to get better with age, but we’ve loved her from the start, and she’s by one of the hottest sires going right now.”

She became the first top-level stakes winner for Girvin, who was moved to stand at Airdrie Stud for the 2023 breeding season after a promising start to his stallion career at Ocala Stud in Florida. She is his first-crop sire’s second graded stakes winner, following Damon’s Mound, winner of the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) this summer at Saratoga Race Course.

Faiza was a $725,000 purchase in May by bloodstock agent Donato Lanni for her owner from Paul Sharp’s consignment to the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. A year before, she had been a $90,000 yearling acquisition by Bet Racing from her breeder’s consignment to The July Sale at Fasig-Tipton.

The Starlet victress is the first stakes winner out of Sweet Pistol from five foals, two of whom have raced. Two of her three unraced foals are not yet of age to start—a Cairo Prince   yearling filly and a Complexity   filly born this year.

Faiza’s second dam is multiple graded-winning sprinter Pomeroy’s Pistol, who produced Thousand Words, winner of the 2019 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) for Baffert.

The Starlet served as a Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep race, providing qualifying points toward the May 5 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs. Because Baffert is banned from competing at Churchill Downs Inc. tracks through the middle of next year, a move made by the track operator after Baffert trainees had a series of medication positives, Faiza and the Baffert-trained fourth-place finisher Doinitthehardway did not register any Oaks points. The second, third, and fifth runners earned points on a 4-3-1 basis, respectively.

Faiza’s victory completed a three-win Saturday afternoon for Baffert. He is the all-time leader during the daytime Thoroughbred meets at Los Alamitos, having 119 wins, including the Orange County Fair seasons (1977-1991). Thirty-five of those wins have come in stakes.

Pedigree Notes

Girvin stands at Airdrie Stud for $25,000 (2023).

Sale History

FTMMAY2022 • $725,000 • Consignor: Paul Sharp • Buyer: Donato Lanni, agent for Michael Lund Petersen.

FTKJUL2021 • $90,000 • Consignor: Brereton C. Jones/Airdrie Stud • Buyer: B.E.T. Racing.