Star Pearl, with Sheldon Russell up, steams home to win the Nellie Morse Stakes. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Star Pearl, with Sheldon Russell up, steams home to win the Nellie Morse Stakes. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

by Ted Black

History never repeats.  Except, of course, sometimes when it does.

Eight seasons ago, then-five-year-old Lexi Star won the Nellie Morse Stakes at Laurel Park and followed that up a month later with a triumph in the Maryland Racing Media Stakes.  Those two wins kicked off the best season of her racing career, a 2007 campaign in which she won four times and earned more than $270,000.

Earlier this month, Lexi Star’s Pennsylvania-bred daughter by Tapit, Star Pearl, also now five, took the first step towards reprising mom’s glittering 2007 ledger when she won impressively in the Nellie Morse.  If all goes according to plan, she will likely make her next start in — of course — the Maryland Racing Media.  A win there would be her third against North American stake rivals.

Star Pearl, trained by Graham Motion for Pearl Bloodstock Limited, has performed well since arriving from England in October 2013, winning four of eight starts and earning more than $170,000.  She’d won two of six in England but made no impact on the British racing scene.

“She spent the first part of her career in Europe,” Motion said.  “But she’s trained well for me since I’ve had her. She really ran well in the Nellie Morse. I think the two-turn stakes are going to be her best races.”

That was also the case for Lexi Star, all of whose stakes wins were around two turns.

“Lexi Star was a tremendous horse for us,” said Stephen Quick, who bred and owned her and bred Star Pearl. “She won several stakes and she made over $600,000 on the track. We really thought she was going to be a good broodmare.”

Only fate intervened.


Star Pearl has a four-year-old half-brother by Sky Mesa named Lexian, who has won once from nine career starts.  But that’s the end of the line.

“[Lexi Star] got colic,” explained Quick. “We took her to New Bolton [veterinary center in Pennsylvania] and they did everything they could for her. Unfortunately, they couldn’t save her… To see her pass away was really hard.”

For Chris Grove, who trained Lexi Star, a Maryland-bred, Star Pearl’s Nellie Morse win was a kind of vindication for a horse that was always a little bit overshadowed.

“I’m happy for Lexi Star that she turned out to be a good broodmare before she died,” Grove said.  “When she raced, Lexi Star was always overshadowed by Silmaril [a millionaire and multiple graded stakes winner that Grove trained at the same time], but she was still a nice filly. When they trained, they were polar opposites. Silmaril was very quiet when she went to the track, but Lexi Star was just the opposite and one day she reared up and kicked me in the stomach.”

Despite — or maybe because of — her ornery attitude, Lexi Star, a daughter of Crypto Star out of the Corridor Key mare Frozen Lock, went on to win 12 races and more than $600,000.  But she still couldn’t get much respect, Grove said.

[boxify cols_use =”3″ cols =”6″ position =”right” box_spacing =”5″ padding =”3″ background_color =”gray” background_opacity =”10″ border_width =”1″ border_color =”blue” border_style =”solid” height =”220″ ]STAR PEARL INFO

  • Age/sex: 5yo mare
  • Breeding: Tapit-Lexi Star, by Crypto Star
  • Bred in Pennsylvania by Stephen Quick
  • Owned by Pearl Bloodstock Ltd.
  • Trained by Graham Motion
  • Race record: 13-6-1-2, $186,883 earnings
  • Stakes wins: Nellie Morse S., Northern Fling S.[/boxify]

“One year trainer Richard Violette, Jr. was going to send down Yolanda B. Too for one of the stakes at Laurel,” Grove recalled. “He made a statement in one of the papers that he was not going to run in the What A Summer because Silmaril was nominated to that race, but instead he was going in the Nellie Morse in which I had Lexi Star nominated. Lexi Star won the Nellie Morse that year and then came back to win the Maryland Racing Media by six lengths.”

Whether Star Pearl will accomplish what mom did — or earn respect that mom could not — remains to be seen.  But in one respect, the two appear to be very different.

“She’s really matured over the last year,” jockey Sheldon Russell said after the Nellie Morse. “Going from [age] three to four has really made a difference. Graham said she had been working well for the [Nellie Morse] and she ran like it. She is very easy to ride. In the longer races, I think she has enough speed to put herself into the race and then she has enough ability to go on from there. I think she’ll do in the longer races.”

That would suit her breeder just fine.

“When you see a horse like her run the way [Lexi Star] did, it really gives you a great feeling,” Quick said.  “I’m glad that one of her foals turned out to be a stakes winner. It’s amazing that they both won the same race [the Nellie Morse Stakes]. Maybe they’ll have a few more wins in common before the end of the season.”

Ted Black, a Maryland native, has covered racing — flat and harness, in West Virginia and in Maryland — for more than two decades. He is president of the Maryland Racing Media Association.