Undefeated Turbulent Descent, one of the leading 2-year-old fillies in the nation last year, will race on dirt for the first time in the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Feb. 5.
The Florida-bred daughter of Congrats won all three her starts late last year when favored each time over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track, culminating in a comfortable victory in the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) Dec. 11. Working exceptionally well for trainer Mike Puype at Hollywood toward her return to action, Turbulent Descent cuts back in distance from 1 1/16 miles to seven furlongs while carrying top weight of 122 pounds in the Las Virgenes.
“Great” was how regular rider David Flores described a five-furlong drill in 59 1/5 Jan.30 at Hollywood Park. “We’re ready for Saturday." The filly had worked a sparkling seven furlongs in 1:23 2/5 the previous week at Hollywood.
The race, which attracted seven sophomore fillies, is one of three graded stakes on the Santa Anita program. It is joined by the $100,000 Thunder Road Handicap (gr. IIIT) on turf at one mile for older horses (race 8), and the $200,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles for 4-year-olds (race 9). The Las Virgenes, race 4 on the card, has a 2:03 p.m. PST start time.
Owned by Blinkers On Racing Stable and partners, Turbulent Descent has impressed with the professional way she has gone about her business rather than her margin of victories. In all of her starts so far, she has settled in hand and rated patiently for Flores before coming home strongly to score with little urging.
In the Starlet, where she was an 11-10 favorite in her first route effort, Turbulent Descent was angled to the inside after a slight bobble at the start, from where she tracked a solid pace before swinging three wide for the drive. The bay filly outfought Las Virgenes foe May Day Rose in the lane and held sway in the final stages for a 1 1/4-length victory.
Turbulent Descent, who has earned $328,350, began her career with a six-furlong maiden event that she won by three-quarters of length during the Oak Tree meet Oct. 3. She came back in the seven-furlong Moccasin Stakes Nov. 21, winning handily by 1 1/2 lengths.
To be ridden again by Flores from post 6, Turbulent Descent's foes include May Day Rose, who returned from her fourth-place effort in the Starlet to post a front-running triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) in her dirt debut Jan. 9.
Owned by Kaleem S. Shah and trained by Bob Baffert, May Day Rose defeated just two opponents in the Santa Ysabel, which she won by 1 1/4 lengths for her third victory in five starts. The daughter of Rockport Harbor is to be ridden by leading Santa Anita jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Second-place finisher Bluegrass Chatter, from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn with Garrett Gomez aboard, also joins the Las Virgenes field.
The other graded winner in the field is Suarez Racing's California Nectar, a California-bred bay with back-to-back stakes wins at the meet. The Doug O'Neill-trained daughter of Stormy Atlantic proved her ability against open company when she gamely held off Zazu in front-running fashion for a neck victory in the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) over seven furlongs Jan. 15. Patrick Valenzuela retains the mount.
The steadily-improving Zazu, a gray/roan daughter of Tapit owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and trained by John Sadler, overcame a slow start to nearly prevail in the Santa Ynez. She'll have the advantageous outside post this time with Joel Rosario aboard.
Peachtree Stable's Plum Pretty, third in the Santa Ynez in just her second lifetime start, was also entered by Baffert.
Tiz the Route, a maiden winner for trainer Joe Herrick in her third start Dec. 11 at Hollywood, completes the field.
$250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I, Race 4, 2:03 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Plum Pretty (PA), M Garcia, 117, B Baffert
2. Bluegrass Chatter (MD), G K Gomez, 117, J Hollendorfer
3. Tiz the Route (KY), B Blanc, 117, J Herrick
4. California Nectar (CA), P A Valenzuela, 117, D F O'Neill
5. May Day Rose (FL), R Bejarano, 119, B Baffert
6. Turbulent Descent (FL), D R Flores, 122, M Puype
7. Zazu (KY), J Rosario, 117, J W Sadler