The Bob Baffert-trained Freedom Star led every step of the way in the $150,000 Azeri (G3) to take the 24th running of the 1 1/16-mile race for older fillies and mares at Oaklawn Park on Mar. 6.
This race marked several firsts for the 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry (IRE): Her first stakes victory; first start outside of California; first race on a dirt track; and first time ridden by Calvin Borel. Breaking from post one, Borel hustled Freedom Star right to the front, maintained the lead through sensible fractions, repelled some mild challenges on the turn, then drew off to a 3 3/4-length winning margin.
Though this was a breakthrough race of sorts for Freedom Star, she was not without credentials going into the race (she was second choice at $2.80-1). Two starts back, she finished third in the El Encino (G2) at Santa Anita on Jan. 17.
For Baffert it marked two consecutive wire-to-wire stakes scores at Oaklawn. He sent out Conveyance to capture the Southwest S. (G3) on February 15 in the same fashion.
The Azeri marked Freedom Star's fourth win in nine starts, with total earnings of $197,160 for owner George Krikorian.