Cash Included and Romance Is Diane, both grade I winners as 2-year-olds, are among the leading contenders in the $250,000 Las Virgenes (gr. I) for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita Saturday.
The Las Virgenes has the look of a deeply contested competition with a field of nine that includes eight stakes winners but no clear-cut favorite.
Trained by Craig Dollase for J. Paul Reddam, Cash Included has not raced since a fifth-place finish in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). That effort followed a 4 3/4-length triumph in Oak Tree’s Oak Leaf Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. I). Corey Nakatani rides the Include filly, an earner of $234,980 from two wins in four starts.
“I think she was sick when she came out of her last race (the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies), so she really didn’t run as well as she could," Nakatani said. "We’re looking forward to her getting back and running her best.”
Romance Is Diane, whom Mike Mitchell trains for Senji Nishimura, has been freshened since registering a 14-1 upset in the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) on Cushion Track Dec. 17. It was her third straight victory since joining Mitchell’s barn following a losing debut. The California-bred daughter of In Excess has earned $376,150.
Kent Desormeaux flies in from the east to replace Nakatani aboard CRK Stable's Jump On In, a winner of her last two starts for trainer John Sadler including the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) on Jan. 15.
“The owners (Lee and Susan Searing) thought it was a good idea and Kent’s a good rider, so we’re flying him in,” explained Sadler, who was tied for first with 15 wins in the trainers’ standings through 30 days, winning at a 22% rate.
Garrett Gomez, the meet’s leading rider, has the call on Rags to Riches, an impressive six-length maiden winner on Jan. 7 for Michael McCarthy, Todd Pletcher’s West Coast assistant. Both Jump On In and Rags to Riches will be racing beyond sprint distances for the first time.
Runway Rosie ran second in the Santa Ysabel (gr. III) with Richard Migliore aboard for the first time. They spotted the winner, Las Virgenes rival Baroness Thatcher, eight pounds (122-114).
$250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 4:30 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 Mile
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Baroness Thatcher (KY), 120, Victor Espinoza
2. Swiss Diva (CA), 120, Agapito Delgadillo
3. Runway Rosie (KY), 120, Richard Migliore
4. Slew o' Platinum (KY), 116, Eddie Castro
5. Cash Included (KY), 120, Corey S. Nakatani
6. Jump On In (KY), 120, Kent J. Desormeaux
7. Romance Is Diane (CA), 122, David R. Flores
8. Quick Little Miss (KY), 120, Jon K. Court
9. Rags to Riches (KY), 116, Garrett K. Gomez