Baffert Stablemates Top Field For Sunday’s Las Virgenes

A rousing 12 length maiden special weight winner going a flat mile in her most recent start, Michael Lund Petersen’s Adare Manor looms a short price favorite versus four sophomore fillies at the same distance in Sunday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.

An important steppingstone to both the G2 Santa Anita Oaks on April 9 and the Kentucky Oaks May 7, the Las Virgenes winner will be awarded 10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points, with four, two and one point awarded to the next three finishers. However, fillies trained by Bob Baffert (Adare Manor and Eda) are not eligible for Oaks points due to Churchill Downs’ ban of the Hall of Fame trainer.

A disappointing fourth as the 3-5 favorite in her second start going 6 ½ furlongs two starts back on Nov. 20 at Del Mar, Adare Manor, a filly by Uncle Mo, put it all together when she stretched out for the first time in a thoroughly dominant gate to wire performance here on Jan. 7.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Adare Manor, who earned a Las Virgenes best last-out Beyer Speed Figure of 92, will be ridden back by John Velazquez in what will be her fourth career start.

Owned by Baoma Corporation, Baffert will also send out Eda, who pressed the pace throughout en route to a hard fought half length win in the G1 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos Dec. 4. A winner of a pair of ungraded sprint stakes, the Anoakia on Oct. 24 at Santa Anita and the Desi Arnaz on Nov. 13 at Del Mar, Eda tried two turns for the first time in the Starlet and earned a 76 Beyer with Juan Hernandez up, who will ride back on Sunday.

The leading money earner in the field with $370,000 and a winner of four out of her six starts, Eda will likely stalk her well fancied stablemate Adare Manor and hope that she can run her down late.

Off as the 4-5 favorite in her first start here on Jan. 1, Peter Eurton’s Queen of Thorns ran to the betting, as she galloped by eight lengths going six furlongs while earning a 73 Beyer. A bay filly by Violence, Queen of Thorns, who is owned by Exline-Border Racing, LLC, Richard Hausman, William Hudock and Susanna Wilson, was purchased for $300,000 out of a Florida 2-year-old in training sale last April. With leading man Flavien Prat back aboard, Queen of Thorns should be well supported in her second career start.

Unbeaten in two starts on dirt by a combined 37 ¼ lengths in Lethbridge, Alberta Canada, Gracelund Gray made a favorable impression in her U.S. debut for veteran trainer Howard Zucker, as she rallied to finish second, beaten one length in a six furlong turf allowance here on Jan. 16. Although she raced very greenly, Gracelund Gray more than tipped her hand and with Tyler Baze back aboard, she looms a live longshot in a short field.

Owned by John and Kelley Gravenslund, this Kentucky-bred daughter of Goldencents elicited this pre-race comment from Zucker on Jan. 16: “Santa Anita is a long way from Lethbridge, and I’m not just referring to the mileage (1,423 mi)!”

Although she gave a good account of herself, Gracelund Gray will no doubt be getting a major class test in the Las Virgenes.

THE GRADE 3 LAS VIRGENES WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER

Race 3 of 9 Approximate post time 1:30 p.m. PT

  1. Miss Everything—Drayden Van Dyke—120
  2. Gracelund Gray—Tyler Baze—120
  3. Adare Manor—John Velazquez—120
  4. Queen of Thorns—Flavien Prat—120
  5. Eda–Juan Hernandez–124

First post time for a nine-race card on Sunday, which will also include the Grade III, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.

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