In a week of three-year-old preps that already took us to Aqueduct, Gulfstream, and Santa Anita on Saturday, we return to Santa Anita on Sunday for the day's lone sophomore points race, the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes. The dirt mile drew a field of six fillies to contend for their share of a $200,000 purse, as well as the typical early-season complement of Road to the Kentucky Oaks points (10-4-2-1) for the top four finishers.
The Las Virgenes has been run at a mile on the main track at Santa Anita since its inception in 1983. It was first graded in 1985, upgraded to a Grade 2 in 1987, a Grade 1 from 1988 through 2015, then has since been run as a Grade 2. Its winners have gone on to the heights of success over the years -- even since the race's recent downgrade.
Four Las Virgenes winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks: Fran's Valentine (1985), Goodbye Halo (1988), Lite Light (1991), and Blind Luck (2010). Several other winners have beaten males in Grade 1 company: Serena's Song (1995) won the Haskell, Rags to Riches (2007) won the Belmont, and Beholder (2013) romped in the 2015 Pacific Classic. You, most famous for winning the 2002 Test Stakes (G1) in a "photo finish that doesn't deserve a loser" over Carson Hollow, won the Las Virgenes as well. Since the downgrade two years ago, both winners of the Las Virgenes have been bona fide stars, and have won divisional championships. Songbird (2016) followed her Two Year Old Filly crown the year before with a Champion Three Year Old Filly trophy, and Unique Bella (2017) was named the year's Champion Female Sprinter.
Songbird gets her three-year-old season off on the right foot with an easy victory in the 2016 Las Virgenes Stakes.
Morning lines were not available at original publish time.
Sunday, February 4 - Santa Anita Park
Race 4: Las Virgenes Stakes (G2), three-year-old fillies, one mile on the dirt, post time 12:30pm PST
We like finding prices when we can, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valour. When the chalk looks like the goods and no one else has quite enough upside to suggest opposing her, we have no shame in suggesting you single a horse and move on. So it is here with DREAM TREE, who looks both the fastest and the best here. Though she broke her maiden on the front end, her two subsequent stakes victories have had her stalking just off the pace and taking over, a perfect sort of trip to get here. DREAM TREE can win a tight photo, or she can win a romp. She has a victory over the Santa Anita main, so the footing should be no issue. The Bob Baffert trainee has had Drayden Van Dyke in the irons for all three of her previous starts; he returns again, because why mess with a good thing? DREAM TREE enters this race a perfect three-for-three, and should extend her lifetime mark to four-for-four here.
STEPH BEING STEPH tries two turns for the first time, a question since she tries two turns for the first time and her dam's only other winner scored going short. But, she does bring some class into this, with a second-place finish behind Midnight Bisou in the Santa Ynez (G2) last out. That was one of two good efforts she's had over the Santa Anita track. Furthermore, there's no shame in chasing Midnight Bisou home -- as she is the one who kept DREAM TREE honest in both of her previous starts. Though STEPH BEING STEPH would have to take a significant step forward to win, she should be able to run on well enough for a share.
There is a chance for an honest pace: THIRTEEN SQUARED and SHE'S NO DRAMA have been best by far when they get right on the front, and DREAM TREE should be chasing nearby. Even so? SHE'S NO DRAMA has been far sharper on the Tapeta at Golden Gate than she has been in any of her dirt starts. If she misfires, THIRTEEN SQUARED could get the run of things until DREAM TREE pounces. The gate is a plus, given that the rail draw has been a good one in Santa Anita dirt miles. Though the bad start at Santa Anita three back is a bit of a concern, none of her sprint tries were any good. THIRTEEN SQUARED woke up in her first try at a mile -- making her the only one in the field other than her stablemate DREAM TREE to have a win going two turns. That's enough to think she'll redeem herself enough for a share.
#3 DREAM TREE
#5 STEPH BEING STEPH
#1 THIRTEEN SQUARED
Longshot: The longshot writer kindly returns your attention to the two horses above who are not named DREAM TREE.
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