This Saturday bring us 3 graded stakes to Santa Anita, all local preps for major races one month from now on Big Cap day. First up will be the Grade 1 Las Virgenes at a mile, which is a prep for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. Next up is the Grade 3 Thunder Road at a mile on the grass, which is the prep for the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile. Finally, the Strub series will finish up with the Grade 2 Strub Stakes, the last chance for 4 year olds to stay within their own age group before taking on older in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. Let's kick off the stakes action with the only Grade 1 on today's card, the Las Virgenes.
The 4th race on the card, the Las Virgenes brings together a field of 6 (7 entered, but Bluegrass Chatter was a program scratch). This race marks the 2011 debut of Turbulent Descent, who capped off her 2010 with a win the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. She has been training smartly across town at her Hollywood Park home base, finishing off her preparations with a bullet 5 furlong work on 1/30. Going against her today is the winner of the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel May Day Rose and the 1-2-3 finishers of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez California Nectar, Zazu and Plum Pretty. May Day Rose cuts back a 1/16th of a mile off her win, and will be winging on the front end. California Nectar is running her third race and stakes win of the meet, and will be looking for her first win at a route of ground. Zazu has finished second to both CA Nectar and Zazu, and will look to avenge both. If Turbulent Descent can take to dirt, the rest look to be running for second.
4 races later, older males face-off in the Thunder Road Handicap. The field includes grade 1 winners Fluke and Victor's Cry. The surprising entrant is Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Dakota Phone. He was expected to run in the San Antonio Handicap tomorrow, but the way the dirt is playing has apparently forced the hand of the connections to use this as a prep race for the Big Cap. The Cal-bred Colgan's Chip will once again try open company, hoping to take this field wire-to-wire while cutting back to a flat mile. This blog does not have a good feeling for this race, so all he will say is that Dakota Phone is a play against at short odds. While he is 1-for-5 on the grass, the shape of the race and the shorter turf stretch will play against him.
The final race of the day is the Strub Stakes. Former recent winners of the race are multiple Grade 1 winners Rock Hard Ten and Medaglia d'Oro. The heavy favorite, and rightfully so in this blog opinion, is Twirling Candy (right). Off his track-record effort in the Grade 1 Malibu, he stretches out once again and comes in with some sparkling works. He appears to be clearly the class of the field and could be a monster in the making. The only worry is that his two starts going a mile and an eighth have been "adventurous". This blog is intrigued by a new shooter invading from the east, Honour the Deputy. This recent private purchase is now in the Hollendorfer barn and apparently adjusted well to SoCal based on his works. With the rather uninspiring lot lined up here besides TC, he is this blog's choice to surprise and get up for second. This blog is taking a stand against any horse that comes out of the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes.
Today will be a solid day of racing out at the Great Race Place, and hopefully will see some star worthy performances. Good luck everybody!