2015 Santa Ysabel Stakes Preview

This week, it’s all about the three-year-old fillies.  Out east, Paul Mazur looked at the Herecomesthebride Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream, a race for the grassy set.  On dirt, all eyes are on Santa Anita for the Santa Ysabel Stakes (GIII), the lone point-bearing Kentucky Oaks prep this weekend.  This year’s edition of the Santa Ysabel offers a $100,000 purse, an amount that has held steady since 1996.  The field of nine also competes for Road to the Kentucky Oaks points, which are awarded 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers of the race.

2015 marks the 48th running of the Santa Ysabel Stakes.  Except for a seven-furlong edition in 1970, the race been run at a mile and a sixteenth since its inception in 1968.  To date, no winner of the Santa Ysabel has gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks.  The most accomplished among winners of the Santa Ysabel was Sharp Cat, who won the race in 1997.  Though her eighth-place finish by disqualification in the Kentucky Oaks was not her finest hour, she won twelve graded stakes races between the ages of two and four, including a walkover victory in the 1997 Bayakoa Handicap (GII) at Hollywood Park.  2005 winner Sweet Catomine, the Eclipse winner for Champion Two Year Old Filly the year before, began her three-year-old season with a victory in the Santa Ysabel.

Calracing.com offers a free live stream of the race, as well as free full-card streaming of Santa Anita every racing day.

The Santa Ysabel Stakes takes place at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, February 28. Morning lines were not available at original publish time, but this was edited on Thursday, February 26 to add morning lines.  It was edited again on Saturday, February 28 to reflect the scratches of Curlin’s Fox and Danette.

Santa Ysabel Stakes (GIII), three-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt, post time 4:00pm PST

Two horses loom particularly large in this field: LIGHT THE CITY and ENCHANTING LADY.  LIGHT THE CITY ran last out in the Las Virgenes (GI), finishing second behind wire-to-wire victress Callback.  LIGHT THE CITY was wide that day, covered fifty more feet than Callback according to Trakus data, and ran the fastest final furlong of that field.  The Las Virgenes was a mile; her late run despite the extra distance suggests this daughter of Street Sense will like the extra half-furlong of the Santa Ysabel.  In terms of pace, she has shown a bit of versatility.  She broke her maiden going wire-to-wire, but scored from a stalking place in her Anoakia Stakes win and ran well stalking in the Las Virgenes as well.  She has enough early pace to go to the front if she wants, but has the tactical speed to sit off of other possible speed types like GLORY, RATTATAPTAP, or STELLAR WIND if they send.  All signs point to LIGHT THE CITY being a formidable foe, and she is the choice.  Her toughest competition comes in the form of a Bob Baffert runner coming in off an eight-month lay: ENCHANTING LADY.  It comes as no surprise that Baffert has a sharp entry in the race: he has won four of the last six editions of the Santa Ysabel, and five in all.  ENCHANTING LADY  debuted in a baby race last May, finishing second behind eventual graded stakes winner Seduire.  She then turned the tables on Seduire in the Landaluce Stakes next out, but has not been seen since.  In both starts, she showed an ability to stalk from close to the pace, a style that should suit this race well.  Even running back to her figure in the Landaluce (a 98 Brisnet) would put her in a strong spot against this field; a progression would make her tough to beat.  Though the layoff gives a bit of pause, she should be ready for this return effort.  Baffert’s runners fire at 27% off lays longer than three months, and she has been on the worktab all winter.  Most of her recent works have been long, too: five, six, even seven furlongs.  That should have her well fit for the stretch to two turns.

The third slot got thorny, with a bumper crop of credible options.  ACHIEVER’S LEGACY clunked in for show money in the Las Virgenes last out, but would have to take a considerable step forward to do better than that here.  One of the classiest entries in the field is the turf-to-dirt mover RAINHA DA BATERIA.  She stands a chance to like the surface, being half to two winners on the dirt including 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile second-place He’s Had Enough.  Still, class is not the worry with RAINHA DA BATERIA.  Pace is the worry.  She is a dead closer, and the surface change plus the not-likely-screaming fractions may leave her with too much to do late.  RATTATAPTAP and GLORY should both be closer to the pace, and may even set it if LIGHT THE CITY decides to rate again this time around.  The trainer/rider combination behind RATTATAPTAP could not be hotter: Jeff Bonde and Rafael Bejarano have been 4-5 with all five in the money over the last two months.  However, the Santa Ynez (GII) gives little in the way of confidence in her: she bobbled at the start, and instead of being able to overcome that trouble, she faded out of contention.  GLORY has a bit more to recommend her.  She failed as a heavy favourite in the California Oaks at Golden Gate last out, but that was her first route race, and was over Tapeta.  She returns to the site of her maiden win here.  She also gets Drayden Van Dyke back in the irons from that race.  This race covers the same distance as her last, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer fires at a respectable 19% with second-time routers.  GLORY broke her maiden after being on a contested pace early, and stayed engaged from off the pace in her first race — a second-place maiden special weight finish behind eventual Las Virgenes winner Callback.  Among a large crop of second-tier options in this race, GLORY has the most little things in her favour.

Selections:

#6 LIGHT THE CITY (7/2)

#3 ENCHANTING LADY (3/1)

#9 GLORY (6/1)

Longshot:  For a filly who looks like a shoo-in to be the longest shot on the board, you can do a lot worse than #8 STELLAR WIND (12/1).  She broke her maiden second out at Laurel, shipped west into the John Sadler barn after a private sale to Hronis Racing, and has been working consistently at Santa Anita since late January.  That maiden win was December 18, but Sadler wins at 18% off similar-length lays.  Though the Santa Ysabel is a large leap in class compared to maiden specials at Laurel, she still has enough going for her to make long odds tempting.  Though her win came on the front end, she showed in her debut that she could overcome a bad start and stay interested.  That day she closed to finish third, beaten just 3/4 length by Spotted Heart.  Spotted Heart won a stakes next out.  STELLAR WIND also removes the blinkers today, a move with which Sadler is seven for his last 20 with a +$3.50 ROI.  She graduated at a mile, and the extra sixteenth should be no trouble for a daughter of Curlin out of a Malibu Moon mare.  It would be a surprise to see STELLAR WIND win, but a reasonable advance from her maiden win could put her on the board at long odds.

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