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Aaron previews the 2024 Las Virgenes Stakes (G3) from Santa Anita Park, then gives his top picks from this Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep race.
Smashing debut winner Kinza and Santa Ynez Stakes (G3) victress Kopion stretch out against 3 others – who emerges the champion? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
A pair of dazzling maiden winners, Richard Mandella’s Kopion and Bob Baffert’s Kinza, stretch out and head a competitive field of five sophomore fillies and mares going one mile on the main track in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Originally scheduled to be run this past Sunday, the Las Virgenes Stakes was rescheduled for this Saturday due to record rainfall.
An important prep to both the Santa Anita Oaks and Kentucky Oaks, the Las Virgenes Stakes provides a total of 42 KY Oaks qualifying points, with 20 to the winner and 10, six, four and two points assigned on down to fifth place.
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In a coin flip, Kopion gets the top nod, as she not only demonstrated keen natural speed in her second start, but the ability to ration it, in prevailing over three rivals going seven furlongs by 5 ¾ lengths here at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 7.
Breaking from the rail with Flavien Prat, who rides back on Saturday, Kopion broke like a shot, shied a bit coming out of the seven furlong chute, but settled into a nice rhythm in winning with consummate ease as the 1-5 favorite.
A $270,000 Keeneland September Yearling, Kopion is by Omaha Beach out of the Victory Gallop mare Galloping Ami and is owned by Spendthrift Farm, LLC.
With Prat back aboard for the third time, he’ll have to play the break and then likely engage in a cat and mouse game plan as Baffert’s Kinza could well be the speed of the speed.
Dismissed at 5-1 in her six furlong maiden debut here at Santa Anita Park on Dec. 29, Kinza broke sharply and was pressured by Peter Eurton’s Ms Bo J to her outside but gained the advantage a half mile from home.
Kinza couldn’t have been more impressive thereafter, as she came away from 10 rivals in mid-stretch in eye-catching fashion, winning off by 7 ½ lengths under Juan Hernandez, who rides her back on Saturday.
A $350,000 2-year-old in training sale purchase this past May, Kinza, who is owned by Michael Lund Petersen, is by Carpe Diem and is out of the Quality Road mare Secret Wonder.
In considering her capacity to stretch out to a flat mile, her gallop out following the maiden score was equally as impressive as her winning margin, as it appeared Kinza was a football field clear of the field by the time she hit the mid-way point on the Club House turn.
A gutty nose winner from off the pace of the ungraded Desi Arnaz going seven furlongs two starts back at Del Mar Nov. 18, Baffert’s Nothing Like You unleashed a dazzling gate to wire run stretching out to a mile and one sixteenth in the Grade II Starlet at Los Alamitos Dec. 9, winning by 5 ¼ lengths lengths while earning a 79 Beyer.
A Kentucky-bred daughter of Malibu Moon out of the Brother Derek mare Miss Derek, Nothing Like You aired by 6 ½ lengths in breaking her maiden at one mile three starts back on Oct. 14 and is well-seasoned, winning three races and placing second once from six starts.
With Juan Hernandez opting to stick with Baffert’s Kinza, Frankie Dettori has the riding assignment on Saturday. Owned by Georgia Hunt, Jeff Giglio and John Rogitz, Nothing Like You seeks her fourth win and third stakes victory in a row.
Second, beaten 5 ¼ lengths by Nothing Like You in the Grade II Starlet Dec. 9 at Los Alamitos, Tim Yakteen’s Great Forty Eight will hope to be running on late as she takes on tougher fillies this Saturday.
Owned by Firebird Racing, LLC, Great Forty Eight broke her maiden going a flat mile two starts back on Nov. 12 at Del Mar and had been ridden by the recently departed J.G. Torrealba in her last four starts.
With Kazushi Kimura taking over on Saturday, Great Forty Eight, who is by Constitution out of the Exchange Rate mare Angelo’s Ashes, has a win and a second from five overall starts.
First post time for a 10-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.
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