Living up to the high regard of jockey Tyler Baze and trainer Chris Paasch, Diplomat Lady held off Balance in the final strides to win the $456,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes (G1) by a half-length on Sunday at Hollywood Park.
Setting the pace after being sent off at 39-to-1, Diplomat Lady increased her advantage to 1 1/2 lengths in early stretch, then dug in to win the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:43.89 on a fast track.
"Last time I rode this filly I told Chris, 'She’s something special,'" Baze said. "I guess nobody thought much of her but me and Chris sure did. She’s special."
Diplomat Lady earned her first stakes win after entering the race for two-year-old fillies off a clear victory in a six-furlong allowance race on November 12 at Hollywood. The daughter of Forestry finished off the board this summer in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Sorrento (G3) Stakes while battling what Paasch called the "Del Mar crud."
"When Tyler came out I said, 'Tyler, I’m not going to say a word to you. Ride her the way you want,'" Paasch said. "My wife and I were talking. I [said], 'I hope he lets her break and if nothing goes with her he can make his choices from there.' If he gets hooked and they really want to go, this filly is smart enough to come off of it a little bit."
Diplomat Lady found herself alone on the front at the start, positioned near the inside rail as she quickly opened a 1 1/2-length lead against Meetmeinthewoods. Balance pulled within one length of Diplomat Lady a half-mile into the race and closed ground on the winner near the finish.
Baze was wary of Balance, a stakes winner who jockey Victor Espinoza positioned to the outside of Diplomat Lady in the stretch.
"I could feel it," Baze said. "I took a peek back at the top of the lane and [saw] she was coming."
Diplomat Lady maintained a one-length lead through six furlongs after clicking off fractions of :23.38, :46.63, and 1:10.96. Balance dropped 1 1/2 lengths off the pace after stalking the leader from the outside, then unleashed a late bid in the stretch.
Sabatini finished third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Balance.
Paasch expected Diplomat Lady to have more company on the front end at the start.
"I was quite surprised to see her pull away in the first quarter-mile," Paasch said. "Nobody pressed her."
Charles Cono’s Diplomat Lady has earned all three of her career wins at Hollywood. Bred in Kentucky by Mike Rutherford, Diplomat Lady boosted her bankroll to $334,800.
Diplomat Lady is out of the Saratoga Six mare Playcaller.
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