Saturday’s $200,000 Grade III Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita turned into a replay of the Starlet Stakes last month at Los Alamitos.
Just like in the Starlet, even-money favorite Faiza held off Pride of the Nile to win by a half length after beating the latter by a head at Los Alamitos. Only difference this time was that Ramon Vazquez was in the saddle rather than Flavien Prat, who was at Oaklawn Park to ride in the Southwest Stakes.
A $725,000 purchase last May, Faiza, a daughter of Girvin, is trained by Bob Baffert and finished the 1 mile in an uninspiring 1:38.46 while remaining unbeaten in three starts for owner Michael Lund Petersen. She has now earned $342,000.
“I wanted to get out in the clear and put my filly in a good position,” Vazquez said. “She’s a nice filly. When I asked her she responded really well. She is amazing.”
Faiza won her debut at Del Mar by 3 1/2 lengths on Nov. 12 and came back a month later to win the Starlet. Two of Pride of the Nile’s three defeats have come at the hands of Faiza.
Third much of the way up the backside, Faiza moved into second around the far turn, engaged pacesetter Street Trouble at the top of the stretch, put away the frontrunner and held off Pride of the Nile for the victory.
Justique, the second betting choice at 2-1, trailed early on as usual, started moving around the far turn under Victor Espinoza and closed late for third in an effort that showed the daughter of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify might enjoy added distance. She finished 2 1/2 lengths behind Pride of the Nile.
The Las Virgenes serves as a prep for the $400,000 Grade II Santa Anita Oaks on April 1.
San Pasqual Stakes
The meet’s leading jockey, Juan Hernandez, capped a four-win day by guiding Newgrange to a one-length victory in the $200,000 Grade II race that serves as a major prep for the $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 4.
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Trained by Philip D’Amato, Newgrange was third up the backstretch, pulled even with pacesetter Hopper in mid-stretch and then pulled away to score his fifth victory in eight starts.Final time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:49.97.
Hopper, sent off as the 7-5 favorite with Edwin Maldonado aboard, carved out fractions of 22.67, 47.36 and 1:11.49 before giving away and holding off 18-1 longshot Parnelli by a head for the runner-up spot.
“I was confident at the three-eighths pole. I was definitely not confident at the quarter pole,” D’Amato said. “But I just kind of saw Juan stay with him and re-engage.”
Said Hernandez: “I think what made a difference is he broke really good and I was able to get a nice position.”