ARCADIA, CA – The fairytale season for Vasilika continued on Saturday when the former $40,000 claimer won her seventh straight – and biggest of her career – in the Grade 1, $300,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
The Rodeo Drive is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Vasilika receiving an automatic berth in the Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3.
Breaking well from post 8 under Flavien Prat as the co-8/5 favorite, Vasilika settled off the pace in mid-pack while Tisbutadream – sporting blinkers for the first time – set quick opening fractions of :23.61, :46.78, and 1:10.42. Heading into the far turn, the other co-favorite Cambodia made a bid for the lead from second and took control midway through, but Prat placed Vasilika right on her heels and followed her past the fading pacesetter. Exiting the far turn, Vasilika swung out and took her shot at the lead. The two fought gamely until mid-stretch, when Vasilika began edging away with every stride, then held off a late rally from Paved for her latest triumph. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee crossed with a 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:59.04 for the 10-furlong turf event.
“We were going a little slower than I thought,” said Prat, who also won the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes one race earlier. “She is super-easy to handle. I knew once she switched leads, we were going to catch Cambodia. I saw (Paved), but we kept on going. This horse keeps getting better and better. She doesn’t quit and she’s got a ton of foot.”
Cambodia faded to third late after being caught for second. Beau Recall closed well, but not well enough, and settled for fourth ahead of Amboseli. Behind them came Sophie P, Queen Blossom, and a weakened Tisbutadream to complete the order of finish.
Vasilika’s win was also her ninth in her last 10 starts, dating back to last November at Aqueduct, where she was claimed for $35,000 and brought west. Hollendorfer, who also co-owns her along with All Schlaich Stables, Gatto Racing, and George Todaro, then claimed her out of her first start here for $40,000, and she has done nothing wrong since. The 4-year-old daughter of Skipshot now carries a record of 26-12-4-3 with earnings of $620,595.
“Sometimes, everything comes down to luck,” Hollendorfer said. “We were looking for a horse to put in the barn and ended up getting her and we got the luck of it. We were just looking for a horse that can win a race. I think there are no secrets to this, sometimes horses get good, they go to a different spot and get better for one reason or another. It doesn’t mean that we did a better job; it’s just she likes it better where she is right now.”
Though she earned a starting spot in the gate, Vasilika is not Breeders’ Cup nominated. Her connections would have to supplement her if they decide to compete on the world’s biggest stage.
“We’re not nominated, but I think it’s feasible to nominate her,” Hollendorfer said. “We’ll have to do our homework and see if we’re going to do that or not.”
Vasilika returned $5.20 to win, $3 to place, and $2.40 to show. Paved brought back $4 to place and $2.80 to show, while Cambodia paid $2.40 to show.