This week’s racing schedule features a trio of three-year-old preps. The week gets underway early — Thursday’s card at Meydan features the UAE Oaks (GIII – UAE), the only Kentucky Oaks points races away from North America. On Saturday, Paul Mazur looks north to Aqueduct, where Derby hopefuls get another chance for a fifty-point haul in the Gotham Stakes (GIII).
This entry focuses on the third of this week’s points races, the Santa Ysabel Stakes. It is the third of four Kentucky Oaks points races run during the winter meet at Santa Anita. The series started with the one-turn Santa Ynez (GII) on January 2, and then stretched out to a mile for the Las Virgenes (GII) on February 6. This race covers a mile and a sixteenth, the same distance as the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) on April 9. It offers a purse of $100,000, as well as Road to the Kentucky Oaks points (50-20-10-5) for the top four places.
The Santa Ysabel Stakes will be run for the 49th time this year. 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). Sweet Catomine (2005), 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. Last year’s Eclipse Award winner for Champion Three Year Old Filly, Stellar Wind, made her stakes debut in the Santa Ysabel. She won, and followed it up with a win in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI). Though she finished fourth as the favourite in the Kentucky Oaks, two more graded stakes wins plus a game second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) were enough for her to secure the championship.
Stellar Wind gets her championship year off to a strong start with a convincing victory in the 2015 Santa Ysabel Stakes (GIII).
Calracing.com offers a free live stream of the race, as well as free full-card streaming of Santa Anita every racing day.
Morning lines were not available at original publish time. Updated Thursday, March 3 to include morning lines. Updated Saturday, March 5 to account for the scratch of STREET FANCY.
Santa Anita: March 5, 2016
Race 5: Santa Ysabel Stakes (GIII), three-year-old fillies, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 2:30 PST
This race drew a pretty healthy ration of speed. SONGBIRD has done most of her work on the front end. NOT NOW CAROLYN graduated on the lead, and JADE PRINCESS, MERIROSVO, PAGEANT MATERIAL, and CODE WARRIOR have all done their best close to the front end.
And yet, this space cannot oppose SONGBIRD.
She has the sharpest early pace, should she want to use it. That alone would not be enough to decide SONGBIRD was the goods, given her likely one-to-Fort Knox odds. But, there’s more. She has won every start with style and ease. She has demolished ten-horse fields before, just as she’ll face today. But, most importantly, SONGBIRD has also survived a contested pace before. In the Del Mar Debutante (GI), she had Pretty N Cool to deal with on the front end, and even let that foe take the lead for a while. It was no matter — once Mike Smith asked her in the least, the rest of the field was eating her dust. Mike Smith knows that if someone else (most likely JADE PRINCESS or NOT NOW CAROLYN) really guns for it, he can lie in wait with SONGBIRD, and push the button when he needs.
For underneath, PAGEANT MATERIAL has some strong appeal. She graduated fourth-time out, going a mile over the Santa Anita dirt, and also ahs a second over that course and distance. She tried the hill last out in the Sweet Life Stakes; that try did not agree with her, and now she returns to the main. This seems a much better spot for PAGEANT MATERIAL than a turf sprint, anyway: her pedigree shouts dirt route top and bottom. She is a daughter of Bernardini, and dam Crown of Diamonds (Distorted Humor) has produced one other winner, whose victories have all come at a mile or more on dirt. She stands to love the extra sixteenth of a mile. Though PAGEANT MATERIAL’s maiden win came while forwardly placed, she got the best of a speed duel and won with a bit of daylight to spare. She also has some back lines in which she was able to sit off the pace and hit the board, proving she does not just fold up if she does not get right on the front end. Coming off a disappointing start last out, and trying stakes company for the first time on dirt, PAGEANT MATERIAL has enough suggestion to improve in order to present real value in the exacta or trifecta pools.
One filly with a few Second to SONGBIRD medals already, and a good chance of acquiring another one, is LAND OVER SEA. The Las Virgenes (GII), her most recent race, was her first since the Breeders’ Cup. She came back ready to race, rallied nicely late, and came home a clear second. She should be even sharper second off the lay. LAND OVER SEA has also shown some form going a mile and a sixteenth at Santa Anita; she was a very clear second behind SONGBIRD in the Chandelier (GI) last September. Though Santa Anita can be speed-friendly at times, she has shown an ability to close over it in both of those tries over the surface, and the presence of several horses who have shown speed may set it up well for her. Unfortunately, the scratch of STREET FANCY will make her the underneath equivalent of chalk, but she runs fast enough and fires consistently enough that she should capture a share.
#6 SONGBIRD (1/9)
#4 PAGEANT MATERIAL (30/1)
#2 LAND OVER SEA (12/1)
Longshot: Set aside for a moment how perfect the name #9 NOT NOW CAROLYN (15/1) is for a horse co-owned by Don’t Tell My Wife Stable — she has strong upside for an enormous price. As the only filly in the field who has not raced in stakes company before, she has some class to prove. However, NOT NOW CAROLYN broke her maiden last time out — in her first race at Santa Anita, her first race at two turns, her first race for trainer Keith Desormeaux, and her first race with Kent Desormeaux in the irons. She stretches out from a flat mile to a mile and a sixteenth here, but does it over the same course for the same people. Given how she improved on the stretch-out despite being out of a sprinter (Maryfield, the 2007 Champion Female Sprinter), perhaps the Tapit on top is carrying the day. The way NOT NOW CAROLYN broke her maiden also caught the eye. She took the early lead, but rebuffed multiple bids over the course of the race, and still edged away to win by daylight. The decent amount of speed in this race may not be the best thing for her, but she showed enough game in her maiden win to suggest she can dig in and stick around for a piece as one of the longest shots on the board.
You can take “Picks & Ponderings” with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates @picksponderings for on-scene reports from Hawthorne Race Course. And you can get “Picks and Ponderings” in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking “Create Subscription.” It’s a FREE service, and you’ll never get any unwanted spam.