INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The appeal of a $421,500 purse, a Grade 1 race, and competition that may have a few weak spots was too much for trainer Peter Miller to pass over with the filly Set Play in Saturday's Hollywood Starlet Stakes at Hollywood Park.
Set Play, the winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante in September, was entered on Wednesday, joining Country Star, the winner of the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland in October, as fillies that have won races at the highest level this year.
While Country Star has not started since the Alcibiades, Set Play will be looking to reverse a three-race losing streak this fall. Owned by Gerson Racing and Charleville Stables, Set Play finished in a dead heat for third in the Miesque Stakes on turf here on Nov.o24, her most recent start. She was 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27.
Miller said that he was considering the $75,000 Blue Norther Stakes at a mile on turf at Santa Anita on Dec. 30, but thought that the Starlet had more appeal.
"We felt for a Grade 1 it's coming up a little bit light," he said. "There is a lot of money, and she broke her maiden on this track. We can always go back on the turf. I think her future is on the grass."
In the Miesque Stakes, Set Play was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by race winner Sea Chanter. Set Play was dueling for the lead in the stretch, but could not keep up with the winner late.
"I thought she ran well" in the Miesque, Miller said. "I was encouraged to see her get back in form after the Breeders' Cup.
"I think she can do better. I think she's a good filly. It's not a straight line, they come in and out of form. We hope she's on another good cycle."
Set Play will wear blinkers for the first time in the Starlet, which is run at 1 1/16 miles. The filly has won 2 of 7 starts and $229,920.
"She has a tendency to lay on horses and wait, and I hope this helps her stay a little focused," Miller said.
Country Star and Set Play will be opposed by seven other fillies, several of whom are capable of big performances. Grace Anatomy was a troubled third in the Alcibiades, Spritely is making her stakes debut after winning both of her starts in Kentucky, and Foxy Danseur will be in pursuit of her second consecutive stakes win.
The race will not be a factor in the year-end championship for the division, a title that Indian Blessing essentially clinched with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Monmouth Park in October.
But the Starlet will provide clues as to which fillies deserve attention in the buildup to the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks, the leading races for 3-year-old fillies at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.
Foxy Danseur should be a price
Foxy Danseur was the 4-5 favorite in the Sharp Cat, but she will be a decent price in the Starlet.
Trained by Christopher Paasch for Charlie Cono, Foxy Danseur won the Sharp Cat Stakes here on Nov. 17, leading throughout 1 1/16 miles.
Foxy Danseur pulled away to win by 2 3/4 lengths and was not challenged through the stretch of the Sharp Cat.
"She ran like I thought she'd run," Paasch said. "We were hoping to stalk but the speed didn't go."
If Foxy Danseur is a price on the tote board, it will not concern Paasch. The filly has made seven starts, more than any other entrant in the Starlet. She beat maidens in her fifth start, at Santa Anita on Sept. 30, and was a game second in the Anoakia Stakes on Oct. 20.
"I think she definitely fits in the group," he said. "We beat Grace Anatomy in a maiden race at Del Mar, but she was inexperienced at the time. [Country Star] looks like a wonderful filly."
Foxy Danseur was ridden by Mike Smith in the Sharp Cat, but he has opted to ride Grace Anatomy in the Starlet. That led Paasch to turn to Tyler Baze, who will be riding Foxy Danseur for the first time.
"You're always concerned when you make a switch with a rider," Paasch said. Baze "has come over and worked her."
"She's such a kind filly," Paasch added. "She can be on the lead or stalk. Other than getting beat a neck in the Anoakia, she would have won three in a row."
Great Hunter, Cobalt Blue tune up
Great Hunter and Cobalt Blue, the winners of major stakes earlier this year for trainer Doug O'Neill, worked at Hollywood Park on Wednesday in preparation for the $250,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.
Great Hunter, unraced since finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby, worked six furlongs in 1:13. A winner of 3 of 10 starts and $772,500, Great Hunter won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in 2006 and the Robert Lewis Stakes earlier this year at Santa Anita.
O'Neill is reluctant to predict how Great Hunter will run in the Malibu, which is run at seven furlongs for 3-year-olds.
"It'd be nice to get it done, but it's a good race to get a 4-year-old campaign started," O'Neill said. "We know that going long will be his strength."
Cobalt Blue, who won the Select Stakes at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27, Breeders' Cup Day, officially worked six furlongs in 1:13, but O'Neill said the workout time was "1:11 and change."
Cobalt Blue has won 4 of 10 starts and $356,433, including the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita in March. Cobalt Blue ended a five-race losing streak in the Select Stakes.
The Grade 1 Malibu Stakes is the traditional opening-day feature of the Santa Anita meeting.
On the same day, O'Neill plans to start Whatsthescript in the $100,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes at a mile on turf for 3-year-olds. Whatsthescript, a three-time stakes winner who worked six furlongs in 1:14.60 on Wednesday, has not started since finishing second in the Crown Royal American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs last May.