Julien Leparoux knew Lightstream was a filly of genuine quality when he showed up at Brian Lynch's barn at Palm Meadows Training Center one morning this winter. The two men had teamed for some recent success - namely winning graded stakes with Heart To Heart and Baciami Piccola in the early months of 2016 - so Leparoux knew he could trust the assessment.
Leparoux found out how good Lightstream was when he breezed the Harlan's Holiday filly. A larger audience learned the filly's ability when she made an impressive debut in early March at Gulfstream, with Leparoux aboard, in a maiden race that's looking better every day. An even bigger group knows about the filly now, after she ran down Grade 1 winner Nickname to win Sunday's Grade 3 Adena Springs Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland Race Course.
"Before I even breezed her told me Brian told me he had one that was pretty special," Leparoux said shortly after Lightstream ran her record to 2-for-2 in the $150,000 Beaumont. "I came, breezed her and was impressed. She breezed good that day and always breezed good."
Making the jump from the maiden ranks to graded company is big, but Lynch and Leparoux gained confidence on several fronts heading into the Beaumont.
The first was the fact that a short field loomed for the race run on the Beard Course's 7-furlong and 184-foot distance. The second was the strength of that March 6 maiden win, a victory that came at the immediate expense of next-out winners Kareena (by 5 lengths Saturday at Keeneland) and J La Tache (by 4 lengths March 25 at Laurel Park).
Ultimately it was the filly herself that gave her connections confidence to take on the likes of Grade 1 Frizette Stakes winner Nickname for trainer Steve Asmussen, the 2-for-2 Congrats filly Kinsley Kisses from Todd Pletcher's barn and Tampa Bay Downs stakes winner R Girls A Charmer from the white-hot Mark Casse barn.
"It was such an impressive debut and she trained on so well in between," Lynch said of his reasoning for making the jump to graded company. "And Julien's been on enough good ones over the years and he works her all the time. There was never a bad word said about her (and) we didn't think this race was going to be a big field and thought it was going to be a nice test for her to see if she's going to take us in the direction we want to go."
Lightstream, purchased by co-owner Leonard Zenith's and Irma Desrochers' Up Hill Stable for $55,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, earned 10 points toward a possible spot in the Kentucky Oaks. She's unlikely for that race, even with Sunday's defection of champion Songbird, since she's far down the list of point earners.
Lynch said he'd instead point the filly, who is also owned by Sol Kumin's Head of Plains Partners, toward the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes going 1 mile on the June 11 Belmont Stakes undercard.
The added distance of the Acorn wouldn't appear to be any significant hurdle for Lightstream, who came up the inside to edge past Nickname in deep stretch. Nickname, second in back-to-back starts at Oaklawn Park going two turns in the Martha Washington and Grade 3 Honeybee, looked like a winner in midstretch after she and Javier Castellano shrugged off fellow pacesetter R Girls A Charmer after 6 furlongs in a quick 1:09.59.
The extra furlong, plus that 184 feet and a small seam on the inside, were just what Lightstream needed to register her first stakes win.
"Very gutsy," Lynch said of the inside move. "The pace was cracking early. He (Leparoux) was patient enough with her. ... She gutted it out down the lane. There was a (Grade) 1 winner in there, multiple winners in there, so it was a nice step forward for her."
Lynch didn't have much time to celebrate the victory, hitting the exit minutes after the winner's presentation to catch a flight to South Florida.
"I've got a bunch of 2-year-olds breezing (Monday) at Palm Meadows," Lynch said.