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Faiza won the 2023 Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park, a prep race for the 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1) worth 50 points to the winner. However, due to trainer Bob Baffert’s ongoing suspension from the Kentucky Oaks & the Kentucky Derby, Faiza was not eligible for any points. Will anyone else emerge from this race as a legitimate Oaks threat? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
An attentive second to a moderate early pace, Michael Lund Petersen’s Faiza took command turning for home en route to a facile 2 ¼ length win in Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes, giving Bob Baffert his record eighth victory in a traditional prep to the Kentucky Oaks. With Flavien Prat employing a hand ride the final sixteenth of a mile, Faiza got a mile and one sixteenth in 1:44.66 as she remained unbeaten in four starts.
Although the Santa Ysabel is structured to award 50 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the winner, Faiza is ineligible due to a dispute between Baffert and Churchill Downs. However, the second, third, fourth and fifth place finishers will receive 20, 15, 10 and five points each.
With Blessed Touch and Hector Berrios showing the way around the Club House turn, Faiza, who broke from the far outside in a field of five sophomore fillies, appeared to have her measured throughout and drew alongside mid-way on the far turn before taking control leaving the quarter pole.
Although ridden by Ramon Vazquez to a half length score going one mile in the Grade III Las Virgenes Stakes here Jan. 28, Prat, who had been aboard for a win in the Grade I Starlet at Los Alamitos Dec. 10 and a first-out maiden win sprinting Nov. 12 at Del Mar, was reunited with the daughter of Girvin today.
Off at 4-5, Faiza paid $3.60, $2.80 and $2.10.
“Obviously, a great post so she jumped well and got me into the race,” said Prat. “She was travelling well all the way around. I felt the pace was quite easy, so I could get myself going around the turn and she stretched her legs down the lane really well.
“It seems like she is getting better, race after race. I think the distance is not a problem for her. She’s a filly that has stamina so there is definitely improvement.”
A $725,000 Keeneland September Yearling, Faiza is out of the Smart Strike mare Sweet Pistol. With today’s winner’s share of $60,000, she hiked her earnings to $402,000.
“She’s got a great mind and she’s by one of the hottest sires, Girvin, who is just unbelievable,” said Baffert. “His progeny (Dorth Vader) won the Davona Dale (Grade II, Gulfstream Park) yesterday. We are just lucky to have her…”
Trained by Peter Miller, And Tell Me Nolies rallied four-wide turning for home and was clearly second best under Ramon Vazquez. Off at 7-1, And Tell Me Nolies paid $5.00 and $3.20 while finishing 1 ¼ lengths in front of Blessed Touch.
Off at 10-1 with Hector Berrios, Blessed Touch finished 2 ½ lengths in front of Justique and paid $4.40 to show.
Both Justique and fifth place finisher Pride of the Nile, never threatened from off the pace.
Fractions on the race were 24.00, 48.32, 1:12.89 and 1:38.25.
FLAVIEN PRAT, FAIZA, WINNER: “I was pretty confident, she jumped well. Obviously, a great post so she jumped well and got me into the race, she was travelling well all the way around. I felt that the pace was quite easy, so I could get myself going around the turn and she stretched her legs down the lane really well. “It seems like she is getting better, race after race. I think the distance is not a problem for her. She’s a filly that has stamina so there is definitely improvement.”
BOB BAFFERT, FAIZA, WINNER: “She’s got a great mind and she’s by one of the hottest sires Girvin who is just unbelievable. His progeny (Dorth Vader) won the Davona Dale (Grade II, Gulfstream Park) yesterday. We are just lucky and fortunate to have her. Michael Lund Petersen has been very excited about her. She wins but she is still learning how to win, Flavien told me that she wasn’t going to win by a lot she does just enough. All the jockeys that have ridden her have said that there’s more in the tank and she gets it done. She’s got a beautiful mind, nothing bothers her and she’s sweet. She’s got a great personality. “She’s never really been on the lead but she like a target, something to run at. At Los Alamitos, (Pride of the Nile) came to her and I thought she was going to get beat and Prat told me there was just so much more left under the hood, she just gives you enough. There’s a lot more there which is good.”
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