Highway Star shows 'good energy' ahead of Gallant Bloom defense

Highway Star wins 2017 Ruffian
Photo: Annette Jasko
Chester and Mary Broman's homebred Highway Star will look to get back on track with a repeat victory in Sunday's Grade 2, $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park following a spate of bad luck during Travers week this summer.

For fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs, the Gallant Bloom will run as Race 8 as the second of three stakes on Sunday's card.

The multiple graded stakes-winning New York-bred pulled a shoe in a half-mile bullet work August 20, causing minor damage to her left hind hoof wall, while training for the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga Race Course on the Travers undercard and a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. 

Highway Star, a 5-year-old Girolamo mare, was closely monitored by trainer Rodrigo Ubillo and was entered in the Ballerina after showing no apparent discomfort and resuming her normal training routine. Then, as soon as she seemingly had avoided one setback, she spiked a fever and had to scratch the morning of the race.

"It's horseracing; that's how it goes sometimes," said Ubillo. "The shoe issue ended up OK, but then we scratched her because she got a temperature the day before the race. It hasn't been a problem since though and she's been fine."

Last year, Highway Star used a game second-place finish in the Ballerina to land a neck victory in the Gallant Bloom before finishing 11th to fellow Broman homebred Bar of Gold in the Filly & Mare Sprint.

This spring, the chestnut millionaire rebounded from a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Heavenly Prize in March, her seasonal debut, with a much-improved second in the Grade 2 Ruffian. She followed that with a runner-up finish in the Critical Eye for New York-breds on May 28, where she was caught by a nose in the last jump by Holiday Disguise. Highway Star turned around on short rest 11 days later to finish second in her most recent start to fellow Gallant Bloom entrant Lewis Bay in the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses on June 8 during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

"She's been training well and she won this race last year, so she's familiar with everything," Ubillo said. "She's doing everything with a good energy. She's doing as well as she was last year, which was her best year. Everything is the same, so I'm happy. She's doing everything right in the morning, so we're just waiting for the race. 

"In the past, she's run good off a layoff, so I don't see it as a problem. I'm not her though, so I can't speak for her, but she's dealt with it just fine before, so I'm assuming it won't be a problem this time."

Carrying 120 pounds, Highway Star will be ridden by Luis Saez from post 4.

Lady Sheila Stable's Holiday Disguise is also coming back for the first time since June for trainer Linda Rice. The 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday filly was third in her most recent effort, beaten 4 ½ lengths, against state-breds in the six-furlong Dancin Renee on June 16 at Belmont. The Dancin Renee was her sixth start in 2018, a winter/spring campaign which included wins in the Biogio's Rose in February, Grade 3 Distaff Handicap on April 6, and the Critical Eye May 28.

"She usually wants to be a little heavy and it can be hard to keep the weight off her, but she's had a pretty good breeze schedule coming into the race and she's been very steady," said Rice. "She hasn't run in a while, so she might need a start to get her going, but I feel pretty good about her. We gave her a little breather because we had her going all spring and I didn't feel like I could have her pulled together in time for Saratoga, so we've had her pointed for a fall campaign. This will give us a race and it'll hopefully get us into the [Empire] Showcase."

Holiday Disguise will carry 118 pounds, including jockey Junior Alvarado, from post 5.

Trainer Chad Brown will send Alpha Delta Stable's Lewis Bay, high-weighted in the field at 121 pounds, and Paul Pompa, Jr.'s recent Shine Again winner Your Love, tabbed at 117 pounds.

Lewis Bay, a 5-year-old daughter of Bernardini, won the Bed o' Roses by 5 ½ lengths before finishing third in the Ballerina. She will have the services of jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 3. Your Love will be making just her third of the year under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano from the outside post 7.

Rounding out the field for the 25th running of the Gallant Bloom are Kirby's Penny (117), winner of the Grade 3 Vagrancy Handicap in May at Belmont; Ballerina runner-up Still There (118), who finished 3 ½ lengths behind the favored Marley's Freedom; and Union Strike (116), fourth in the Ballerina last time out.

 

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