Kentucky Oaks Prep: Las Virgenes Stakes
In the weeks leading up to the 147th Kentucky Oaks (G1), US Racing looks back at some history of the prep races for 3-year-old fillies that offer qualifying points to Run for the Lilies at Churchill Downs on April 30.
By Margaret Ransom
Not to be overshadowed by the California-based colts gearing up for the Kentucky Derby (G1), five fillies based in the Sunshine State on course for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) are set to race a mile in the $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (G3) on Saturday at Santa Anita.
The filly feature is one of three major state preps for the Run for the Lilies for what has been largely only California-based fillies for several years. The Oaks offers qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the first four finishers.
Kalypso, winner of the Santa Ynez (G2) in her 3-year-old debut, looks to be the filly to beat. Also in the field are Moonlight D’Oro, Moraz, Honor America, and Brilliant Cut.
The Las Virgenes s early on the card and will run as the third race at 1 p.m. PT.
Since it was first run in 1983, the race has drawn some of the best sophomore girls in the West whose connections had their eyes on Oak, which is run the day before the Derby. The Las Virgenes, which also serves as a prep for the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) in early April, has drawn winning performances from the likes of Lite Light, Lakeway, Serena’s Song, Sharp Cat, Keeper Hill, Excellent Meeting, Surfside, Rags to Riches, Stardom Bound, Blind Luck, Beholder, Songbird, Unique Bella, Bellafina and Venetian Harbor a year ago.
The Las Virgenes is named for a park preserve in Los Angeles county encompassing nearly 700 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains adjacent to the popular and beautiful Malibu Creek State Park.
The area has a few established hiking trails, the most significant being Las Virgenes View Trail through grasslands and oak woodlands near Las Virgenes Road in the far north San Fernando Valley and then up a canyon to a ridge for a 360-degree view of the Santa Monicas.
Many things in Southern California are named for the Las Virgenes area, from school districts to water districts, major thoroughfares that run from the north valley through the Santa Monicas to Malibu.
Hall of Famers D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert have each sent out five winners. Baffert has a chance to move ahead of Lukas when he sends out Kalypso on Saturday. Retired jockeys Corey Nakatani and Gary Stevens each rode four winners.
$200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (G3)
The field by post position, with jockeys and trainers in parentheses, and pedigree:
1. Moraz (Umberto Rispoli, Michael McCarthy)
Empire Maker—Malvinia, by A.P. Indy
2. Kalypso (Joel Rosario, Bob Baffert)
Brody’s Cause–Malibu Cove, by Malibu Moon
3. Moonlight d’Oro (Flavien Prat, Richard Mandella)
Medaglia d’Oro–Venetian Sonata, by Bernardini
4. Honor America, (Juan Hernandez, Shelbe Ruis)
Into Mischief–Honour Isabel, by Honour and Glory
5. Brilliant Cut (Ricardo Gonzalez, Doug O’Neill)
Speightstown–Polish a Diamond, by The Factor