Venetian Harbor will look to follow up her sparkling 10-length maiden win in Saturday’s $200,000 Las Virgenes (G2) at Santa Anita. Flavien Prat rides the exciting 3-year-old filly for the Richard Baltas in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series race.
The $150,000 Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs also serves as an Oaks qualifier, and Golden Rod (G2) runner-up Motu will open her 3-year-old season in a well-matched field of nine. Both races will award points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
Venetian Harbor just missed in second when making her debut as the even-money favorite in a 5-furlong turf maiden at Del Mar in mid-November. She made amends while switching to the main track at Santa Anita six weeks later, leading all the way at 6 1/2 furlongs, and the daughter of Munnings shows a series of fast works in preparation for her stakes debut.
Bob Baffert has won the one-mile Las Virgenes five times previously, most recently with Dream Tree in 2018, and last-out allowance scorer Gingham will represent the Hall of Fame conditioner. Fourth in the Chandelier (G1) two back, the Quality Road filly is eligible to show more in her second stakes attempt. Drayden Van Dyke has the call.
California-bred stakes winner Cholula Lips and stakes-placed Stellar Sound also part of the five-horse field.
Motu posted a convincing maiden win at Keeneland and missed by less than a length to Finite when making her stakes debut in the Golden Rod last time, clear in second by 6 1/2 lengths. Jose Ortiz will guide the dark bay daughter of Paynter for Kenny McPeek, who also has Miss Important entered. The latter exits a romping maiden triumph at Turfway Park.
Two Sixty exits a wire-to-wire win in the Jan. 18 Gasparilla at Tampa, and We the Clouds is eligible to improve after a fast-closing third as the favorite in the same race. Lucrezia, who was last seen taking the Dec. 7 Sandpiper at Tampa as the even-money choice, merits respect for Arnauld Delacour.
Grade 3 winner Comical, a well-beaten seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) last out, will return to action for new trainer Steve Asmussen, and Joel Rosario picks up the mount. Embossed brings a two-race win streak to her stakes bow, and Turtle Tax posted a convincing tally over entry level allowance rivals at Churchill Downs two back.