ARCADIA, CA – The ultra-impressive Vasilika proved that she is still very much the best in the west on Saturday, shooting to the lead at the top of the stretch before dominating her competition in the Royal Heroine Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from the rail under Flavien Prat as the 1/5 definitive favorite, Vasilika took back and saved ground while the stretching-out sprinter Smoovie posted opening fractions of :22.99 and :46.31. After stalking the early pace, Cordiality took over command heading into the far turn, but Vasilika was right behind her. Tipping out to run three-wide at the top of the stretch, Vasilika swept past Cordiality and drew off under mild urging.
The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee crossed with an easy 2 3/4-length score in a final time of 1:33.53 for the mile-long event over the firm turf.
“We broke fine at the rail,” Prat said. “We changed our strategy when I saw (Ms Bad Behavior) was out of the race on the first turn and we went to Plan B. I can never do anything wrong with this filly. No matter what I do, she covers me. She is definitely something special.”
A pair of longshots came sneaking up late to hit the board. Meal Ticket finished second over Space Talk at odds of 24/1 and 41/1, respectively. Raven’s Lady took fourth over a weakening Cordiality and Smoovie, who completed the order of finish.
Regarding Prat’s comments after the race, Ms Bad Behavior took up heading into the first turn and jockey Mike Smith quickly jumped off, causing concern amongst the many fans watching live. However, after the on-track veterinarian staff had a chance to inspect her, she was led by pony back to the barn under her own power.
Vasilika’s win was her third straight and her 11th in her past 12 starts with her lone loss a 2-length defeat in the Matriarch Stakes (G1) last December. The 5-year-old daughter of Skipshot, who Hollendorfer famously claimed for $40,000 just as her incredible win streak began, has now earned $1,058,595 with a record of 31-16-4-3. She is co-owned by Hollendorfer, All Schlaich Stables, Gatto Racing, and George Todaro.
“I talked to Flavien a little bit before the race, and I told him, ‘You wanted to do something a little different, I didn’t mind,'” Hollendorfer said. “I think he was a little nervous about being back today, so he kept her a little closer and it worked anyway. She’s doing good right now, that’s for sure.”
Vasilika returned $2.60 to win, $2.10 to place, and $2.10 to show. Meal Ticket brought back $8.40 to place and $6.20 to show, while Space Talk paid $4.20 to show.