February 24, 2024

Kopion gets first two-turn test in rescheduled Las Virgenes

Kopion breezes home as the 1-5 favorite in the Santa Ynez (Photo by Benoit Photo)

With highly regarded stablemate Tamara essentially out of Kentucky Oaks (G1) contention as she heals from an injury, Kopion might yet take trainer Richard Mandella to Churchill Downs in early May. The three-year-old filly’s two-turn prowess will be put to the test for the first time on Saturday in the $100,000 Las Virgenes (G3) at Santa Anita.

The Las Virgenes, along with the $100,000 San Marcos (G3) for older turf males, was rescheduled after racing last Sunday was canceled due to inclement weather.

Kopion enters the one-mile Las Virgenes undefeated from two starts. The daughter of Omaha Beach has been striking, defeating next-out graduate She’s a Tempest by 3 3/4 lengths at Del Mar going 6 1/2 furlongs, and then producing a runaway score in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez (G3) as a 1-5 favorite.

The main threat to Kopion might come from Kinza, a splendid debut winner on Dec. 29 at Santa Anita. She won by 7 1/2 lengths going six furlongs, earning a 95 Brisnet Speed rating. Kinza might be joined in the Las Virgenes by fellow Bob Baffert trainee Nothing Like You, a winner of three straight races including the Starlet (G2) at Los Alamitos by more than five lengths. The field is rounded out by Starlet runner-up Great Forty Eight.

While the Las Virgenes will offer Kentucky Oaks qualifying points of 20-10-6-4-2 to the respective top five finishers, neither Kinza nor Nothing Like You are eligible to earn any due to Baffert’s ongoing suspension from racing at Churchill Downs.

Among the entries in the 1 1/4-mile San Marcos are recent Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) winner Planetario and divisional mainstay Balladeer. Missed the Cut, who captured the Tokyo City (G3) in October, might be best positioned to benefit from a surface switch. That remains a possibility, given the amount of rain of late in Southern California.

Earlier in the card, Hopkins defends his title in the $100,000 Palos Verdes (G3) over six furlongs. Big City Lights appears his leading opponent in the field of five.