February 24, 2024

Little separates top players in Santa Ysabel

Faiza (outside) holds off Pride of the Nile to win the Starlet Stakes (Photo by Benoit Photo)

Faiza sits atop the three-year-old filly division in Southern California, but the margin isn’t wide between her and Pride of the Nile, who she meets for a third time this winter in Sunday’s $100,000 Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Faiza enters the Santa Ysabel perfect from three starts. Although she handily won her debut at Del Mar in November, she’s been less authoritative around two turns, despite having started at odds of even-money or less. She gutted out a head victory over Pride of the Nile in the Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos in December, and then fended off that rival again by a half-length in the Jan. 28 Las Virgenes (G3).

In addition to Pride of the Nile, the Santa Ysabel also features stakes winner Justique, who finished three lengths third in the Las Virgenes in her first start since taking the seven-furlong Desi Arnaz S. at Del Mar in November. Justique has won both of her starts around one turn, but her closing kick hasn’t yet been as effective around two.

And Tell Me Nolies was the circuit’s top two-year-old filly last summer and fall, when she was a surprise and narrow winner of the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Chandelier (G2). When last seen, And Tell Me Nolies was a non-threatening eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Keeneland.

The field is rounded out by longshots Blessed Touch and Spanning the Globe.

The Santa Ysabel offers Kentucky Oaks (G1) qualifying points of 50-20-15-10-5 to the respective top five finishers. All are eligible to accrue points with the exception of Faiza, due to Baffert’s current suspension from racing at Churchill Downs.