December 1, 2022

Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Finest City returns in Santa Monica

Before the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), the most impressive win on Finest City’s resume was the Great Lady M. Stakes (G2) at Los Alamitos last April.

The City Zip mare was sent off at 8-1 in the championship event but outran her more highly regarded rivals when recording a three-quarter length victory for trainer Ian Kruljac. That catapulted the chestnut into consideration for an Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter.

While it’s still unknown whether or not her connections will be able to celebrate Finest City winning an Eclipse Award on Saturday, the probability of the five-year-old bringing home the Santa Monica Stakes (G2) prize is extremely high.

Finest City faces just four rivals in the seven-furlong affair scheduled as the 5TH race at Santa Anita Park on Saturday and ranks as the top choice off her Breeders’ Cup score. She actually tried turf in a pair of starts before the Filly & Mare Sprint, finishing fourth by 1 3/4 lengths in the Yellow Ribbon Handicap (G2) and missing by only a head in the John C. Mabee Stakes (G2).

Those efforts followed a third-place run behind Beholder and Stellar Wind in the Vanity Mile (G1). In fact, the Great Lady M. was Finest City’s last sprint start before showing up in the Breeders’ Cup. Mike Smith retains the mount as the Pennsylvania-bred attempts to kick off 2017 in winning style.

Fantastic Style could be Finest City’s biggest threat in the Santa Monica. The five-year-old bay went 5-0-1 from six starts after running second in her maiden debut in December 14. Her last win came in the Las Flores Stakes (G3), where she scored by four lengths while Finest City finished eight lengths behind in fourth.

Rafael Bejarano was aboard for that effort, as well as Fantastic Style’s runner-up placing in the Great Lady M. The duo most recently teamed up to be fifth in the Kalookan Queen Stakes and will pair again on Saturday as Fantastic Style makes her first start for new trainer Doug O’Neill.

Bad Ju Ju is riding a three-race win streak, including the Kalookan Queen last out on December 30. Norberto Arroyo Jr. was aboard for all those starts and keeps the mount on the Peter Miller-trained five-year-old in this spot.

Stakes winners Sheer Pleasure and Dr. Fager’s Girl complete the Santa Monica field.