Michael Lund Petersen’s Kinza and Santa Ynez (G3) winner Kopion brought similar profiles into Saturday’s $100,000 Las Virgenes (G3). Both unbeaten fillies had demonstrated brilliance around one turn, with pedigrees suggesting that they could stretch out to a mile. But Kinza’s superior speed held sway over Kopion’s valiant pursuit at Santa Anita.
A $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May juvenile, Kinza dazzled in her six-furlong bow here Dec. 29 for Bob Baffert. Top jockey Juan Hernandez stayed aboard for the Las Virgenes, even though he’d ridden stablemate Nothing Like You to a romp in the Starlet (G2). That proved to be a tip in itself.
Kinza was dispatched as the even-money choice over 1.30-1 Kopion, and the market forecast their positions at every call on the track. Breaking fast to secure the lead through an opening quarter in :22.99, Kinza was stalked by Kopion through fractions of :46.91 and 1:10.82. Kopion attempted to increase pressure on the far turn, but the pacesetter got away from her. Again in the stretch, Kopion tried to level off and gain ground, only to have Kinza pull out more.
Two lengths clear at the wire, Kinza negotiated the mile in 1:37.03. The final furlong in :13.68 might give pause about how well the top two handled their route test; on the other hand, given the strong early fractions in their first route, both are eligible to improve.
“This filly, she has a lot of talent,” Hernandez recapped. “She broke on top. Last time she showed a lot of speed. Today, it was a faster pace but she handled it pretty good. I felt like I was putting in a really good pace.
“My feeling was that she was really comfortable in front. I never asked her to go that fast; she was doing it all on her own. I think that was the key to win the race, that she was comfortable the whole race. When I asked her at the quarter pole, she picked it up, so I think she is a really nice filly.”
Because Baffert is suspended by Churchill Downs Inc., Kinza is ineligible to accrue points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1). The Las Virgenes’ Oaks ramifications therefore rely on Kopion, whose creditable second was good for 10 more points, doubling her total to 20.
She’s a Tempest raced in third throughout, garnering six points in her stakes debut. Nothing Like You, like Kinza ineligible for points, was a non-threatening fourth. Great Forty Eight took home two points for trailing in fifth, and she now has four in all.
The 2-for-2 Kinza has bankrolled $99,000. The New York-bred is a daughter of Carpe Diem and the Quality Road mare Secret Wonder, from the family of multiple Grade 3 turfiste Gentle Ruler.
“She acts like a filly that can handle (the distance),” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “You don’t know until you do it, but she had shown in the morning, in her workouts that she could go further. I was more concerned there was so much speed, with the small field and a lot of speed.
“Unfortunately, our other filly (fourth-placer Nothing Like You) – she’s got speed, but she was on the rail and she doesn’t have that kind of speed, so she had to kind of take back and make some kind of trip, and she probably doesn’t want to do that.”
Palos Verdes (G3)
Earlier on Saturday, Kopion’s trainer/jockey tandem of Richard Mandella and Flavien Prat had edged a Baffert/Hernandez runner in the $100,000 Palos Verdes (G3). Their 2-5 favorite Big City Lights stayed on determinedly to nip Baffert’s defending champion Hopkins by a nose, clocking six furlongs in 1:09.91.
“He broke just OK, he was pretty quiet before the race,” Prat noted. “I was kind of chasing the leader actually, but he was very game to get the job done. Turning for home I thought (Hopkins) was gone. The only thing was when he was trying to make a move, he kind of stayed with me, so I was hoping he would stop a bit at the end, which is what happened.”
“I was (concerned),” Mandella said. “He didn’t get away running like he usually does. I noticed that he did grab a quarter, I didn’t think it was bad, but it was enough to set him back the first part. He showed his class, he dug in and fought it out anyway.”
Campaigned by William R. Peeples, Big City Lights advanced his scorecard to 9-5-4-0, $392,420. The son of Mr. Big has suffered all of his losses at the hands of The Chosen Vron in California-restricted stakes. The Palos Verdes marked his first attempt at the graded ranks, but his form through The Chosen Vron was a strong indicator that he stacked up well.
Hopkins was winging through splits of :22.75 and :45.09 before tiring, as though needing this second race off a long layoff. The six-year-old by Quality Road had been sidelined following his close fourth in last year’s Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) on Dubai World Cup (G1) night, and it would be no surprise if he turns up a fitter specimen there.
San Marcos (G3)
Quality Road underscored his versatility as a sire by getting the winner of the final stakes on the card, the $100,500 San Marcos (G3) over 1 1/4 miles on turf, in Missed the Cut. Trained by John Sadler and expertly piloted by Joel Rosario, the 6-5 favorite threaded the needle entering the stretch, squeezed past pacesetter Balladeer, and outkicked Mandella’s Planetario to the wire.
Stamina-laden Planetario was prepping for the about 1 7/8-mile Red Sea Turf H. (G3) on Saudi Cup Day, so Missed the Cut probably would have had the sharper turn of foot. Nevertheless, Rosario’s gambit contributed to his 1 1/4-length margin in a final time of 2:01.14 over the good course.
Balladeer crossed the wire another 5 1/4 lengths adrift in third, but the stewards demoted him to fourth for interfering with Irish Prophet, who was elevated into the show spot.
Missed the Cut has now won black-type events on turf, dirt, and synthetic. Having captured the 2022 Churchill S. on Lingfield’s Polytrack for original trainer George Boughey, he eventually broke through stateside in the Oct. 1 Tokyo City Cup (G3) on Santa Anita’s main track. Missed the Cut flopped next out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), but was happier back on turf when runner-up in the Dec. 26 San Gabriel (G2). His resume reads 14-6-2-0, $385,701.
Sadler revealed that a summer trip to Royal Ascot is under consideration for Missed the Cut, who had bolted up in the Golden Gates H. there during his sophomore season in 2022.
“There’s a little talk around his ownership group saying, ‘We’d like to go to the Royal Ascot with him in June,’” Sadler said postrace.
That consortium includes Bee Zee LLC, Lanes End Racing, St. Elias Stables, Edward Babington, Edward Hudson Jr., and Lynne Hudson.