Golden Ballet Dances to Victory in Las Virgenes

Golden Ballet Dances to Victory in Las Virgenes
Photo: Associated Press/Benoit Photo
Golden Ballet, winning Saturday's Las Virgenes.
From Santa Anita Park
Golden Ballet continued her dominance of Southern California's 3-year-old filly division Saturday with a 2 1/2-length victory over Two Item Limit in the $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Ridden by Chris McCarron at high weight of 122 pounds, Golden Ballet ran one mile in 1:36.89 on a fast main track and returned $2.80, $2.60 and $2.10. It was the fourth straight victory for Golden Ballet –- all in stakes races –- and her first win in a grade I event. Jenine Sahadi trains the winner for Team Valor and Heiligbrodt Racing Stables.

Golden Ballet, racing around two turns for the first time, sprinted clear at once, and set the pace through fractions of :22.36, :46.08 and 1:10.96. The winner shrugged off Irguns Angel on the last turn and then held off Two Item Limit in the stretch.

Two Item Limit, a double stakes winner in New York who was ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye at 120 pounds, rallied strongly to finish second and paid $2.20. Affluent, Brice Blanc riding at 114 pounds, also finished well to gain third place and returned $2.20.

Collect Call, Ella's Pal, Irguns Angel and Warren's Whistle completed the order of finish. Thewholebag and Flute were scratched earlier in the day.

A California-bred by Moscow Ballet, Golden Ballet has a 4-1-2 record from seven starts. The $120,000 winner's share increased her earnings to $346,895.

McCarron said the race went according to plan, except for a minor problem on the first turn.

"I thought I'd be in front and she was fast enough to make the lead," he said. "She didn't get into the first turn real smooth because she was going fast and she had never run into a turn that quickly. (In the stretch) I could hear a horse down inside of me. I wanted to make sure my filly was not going to drift out and give whoever it was enough room to drive a Mack truck up in there, so I kept my filly just slightly off the fence. She was best."

Sahadi said Golden Ballet's next race is the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 10. Six of the last seven winners of the Las Virgenes Stakes also went on to win the Santa Anita Oaks.

"She has a lot of improvement still in her," Sahadi said. "She is a lot more mature and a lot more settled than she was. I'm glad to have this race behind me, that's for sure."

Team Valor and Heiligbrodt Racing purchased Golden Ballet from Jerry Dutton and Vladimir Popovich following her victory in the Nursery Stakes at Hollywood Park last May. Golden Ballet made a quick return on the investment for her new owners with an eight-length victory in the June 18 Cinderella Stakes. Illness and a minor hock injury caused a seven-month respite, but Golden Ballet has come back better than ever. She won the Jan. 20 Santa Ynez Stakes by seven lengths and the victory Saturday made it two straight this year and four straight overall.

For McCarron, it was his 10th stakes victory this season, and the 45-year-old Hall of Famer is on pace to break the winter/spring record of 19 stakes victories shared by Laffit Pincay Jr. (1982-83) and Corey Nakatani (1996-97). McCarron also needs 21 wins to become only the seventh jockey in history to win 7,000 races.

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