Homebred Star Guitar filly extended win streak July 24 at Saratoga Race Course.
by Gary McMillen
Steve Queen photos
Close your eyes. Imagine Evelyn Benoit speechless.
Seldom at a loss for words—Benoit lost her voice for three days after Brittlyn Stable’s home-bred Wild About Star won the $100,000 The Very One stakes on May 14 at Pimlico Race Course on the undercard of the Preakness Stakes.
Benoit was with her 5-year-old Star Guitar mare in the shed row at Delaware Park the night before the race. “I went straight from the airport to the barn,” Benoit recalls. “It was 10 o’clock at night and she was cleaning up a bucket of oats and molasses. Her color and attitude were great. She looked amazing. You could tell she was sitting on a big race.”
Trained by Venezuelan-born Jose Camejo, Wild About Star shipped in to Pimlico on the morning of the race. From the first crop of Star Guitar, Wild About Star had previously done all of her racing in Louisiana. Going five furlongs on the turf and breaking from an outside post, Wild About Star made a statement for Louisiana-breds on the national scene. Three wide on the turn, Wild About Star chased the early pace before taking command at the 1/8th pole and drew off to win by daylight.
It may not have been good for her vocal cords, but for Benoit, winning a $100,000 stakes on the Preakness undercard was a dream come true. “From the time I landed at Delaware Park until we were in the winner’s circle I was treated like royalty,” Benoit recalls of the experience. “Every single person we met in Baltimore was kind and accommodating. Day or night the management and staff at Pimlico allowed us access to everything.”
“The atmosphere at the track was incredible. The place was packed,” Benoit continued. “The whole day was one big party just like the Kentucky Derby. The crowd was really into it. The enthusiasm was off the charts.”
In the party atmosphere and media attention, Benoit never made it back to her reserved seat in the clubhouse to watch the race. “People that I had never seen in my life came up and wanted to talk,” she explained. “When I walked out of the paddock I couldn’t find a place to stand.”
Benoit is no stranger to traveling to stakes venues and being on hand to root for her horses. “In forty years I don’t think there has been more than two occasions when I was not present,” she says. “It is very important to me. I just keep trying to promote horse racing in any way that I can. No matter what other business ventures I am involved with, horse racing has my maximum attention.”
Louisiana-bred Horse of the Year four times, the top money earning Louisiana-bred in history and winner of 24 of 30 starts, Star Guitar is the glue that holds Benoit’s racing stable together. “From the very beginning I knew that Star Guitar was the best horse I ever bred,” Benoit says. “From the day he started racing my bond with him grew stronger and got me through some tough personal times.”
For Benoit, winning The Very One stakes on the Preakness undercard was exhilarating but she is not one to dwell in the past. “I can’t say enough about my trainer Jose Camejo and his racing team,” Benoit explains. “They are so thrilled and committed to the progeny of Star Guitar. I’m looking forward to finding more quality mares to breed to Star Guitar. Just wait until you see the next batch.”
Brittlyn Stable’s Wild About Star, racing for the first time outside of her native Louisiana, came with a sweeping move on the outside and stormed down the center of the track to pass favored Jo Jo Air to win Saturday’s $100,000 The Very One at Pimlico Race Course.
“I am wild about Star!” said winning owner Evelyn Benoit. “It took me about 40 years to get a stallion. Star Guitar is the Louisiana stallion of the year, and I own the mare and we have a lot of babies. This is what I’ve been trying to do, not only promote Louisiana racing but horse racing for everyone, to show that Louisiana and women and women in my position can do this. It was very difficult. I never had a horse super enough to be a stallion. Gosh, it’s just a dream. To win an open stakes here in this beautiful state of Maryland, it means everything to me. I’m so thrilled, couldn’t be any happier if I won the Preakness. You have no idea, this is like the biggest dream in my life come true.”
The 20th running of the five-furlong The Very One for fillies and mares on the grass was among nine stakes, five graded, worth $2.8 million on a 14-race program highlighted by the 144th Preakness Stakes (G1), the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Ridden by Daniel Centeno, Wild About Star ($13) won in 56.93 seconds over a firm turf course.
It was the first career stakes win for Louisiana-bred Wild About Star, a 5-year-old Star Guitar mare making her first start for trainer Jose Camejo. Wild About Star chased even-money favorite Jo Jo Air through a quarter-mile in 22.88 seconds before forging a short lead on the turn and pulling away to a 1 ¾-length triumph. Jo Jo Air stayed up for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Misericordia. Eye On Berlin finished fourth.
Wild About Star has six wins from 15 career starts and is 5-for-11 lifetime going five furlongs on grass.
“(Benoit) wanted to promote the stallion all over the place, so she decided to run (Wild About Star) here after she worked,” said Camejo. “She was feeling really good. She was ready for this race.”
Benoit said the mare’s success is a big boost for Star Guitar, who stands at Clear Creek Stud in Louisiana, where his 2019 fee was $7,500.
“She’s out of his first crop, and I’ve wanted to have this opportunity in front of a large crowd to show that in Louisiana we can breed nice horses,” the owner/breeder said.