In her short career, Colstar had done nothing but finish first, second or third, but she'd never won a stakes race.
So on the Laurel Park turf yesterday, in the $100,000 Grade III Martha Washington Stakes, the Kentucky-bred 3-year-old filly went off as only the fifth choice. Of course, Colstar didn't know, and her jockey Alberto Delgado didn't care.
They had their orders.
"Just win," said trainer Paul Fout of Middleburg, Va.
And they did.
"I knew if she had a good break [from the post], I would have a good shot to win," said Delgado. "She was very comfortable. The grass was very soft, but she handled it well. And when I asked her to run -- it was all over."
The field was competitive, with nine horses coming to post even after three scratched. And in the paddock before the race, trainer Robert Barbara was feeling good about his horse, Wild Heart Dancing, one of the two favorites at post time.
"Being the favorite is no problem," Barbara said. "She deserves it. She's won graded stakes before. There are a couple good horses here, but I never look at that stuff. We're here. We're comfortable. Everything is fine."
Polaire, bred in Ireland and running only her second race in the United States, also had big expectations. At Belmont Park last month, she had had her first experience with the drug Lasix, a diuretic, and finished just three-lengths behind the winner.
"We're in good shape," said assistant trainer Jesse Mendoza.
But when the starting gate opened, it was Chimes Tower who broke in front and Colstar tucked her nose in behind along the rail. She patiently held her ground until taking the lead at the head of the stretch.
Behind her, Polaire went to the outside, four-wide for the stretch run and closed gamely, but finished three-quarters of a length behind in second. Jazz, trained locally by Barclay Tagg, finished third, while Wild Heart Dancing, who had been running fourth, faded and finished seventh.
"Colstar is home-grown," said her owner Beverly R. Steinman, who lives in Lancaster, Pa. "I keep all our mares in Kentucky and she's out of a mare I own called Ascend. She's a very determined filly."
Fout, her trainer, smiled. He said she's also very sensible.
"She'll go to the track and walk home like a kid's pony," he said. "She's very laid back, doesn't take much out of herself before a race."
Instead, she puts it out where she's supposed to. Colstar concluded her 3-year-old season 4-1-1. Now, said Steinman, "She can have the winter off."