The one-mile Las Virgenes is one of four graded races on a Santa Anita program that includes the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds, the Strub Stakes (gr. II) for 4-year-olds, and the Thunder Road Handicap (gr. IIIT) for older turf horses. The Las Virgenes is restricted to 3-year-old fillies.
Stardom Bound, currently in the barn of Bobby Frankel, brings a three-race winning streak into the Las Virgenes, all coming in grade I races. The daughter of Tapit capped the 2008 season with a 1 1/2-length win in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) over the Pro-Ride track Oct. 24. The victory came in breathtaking style as Stardom Bound rallied from 12th to take the lead with a five-wide move around the far turn.
The dominating gray filly also won the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita by 3 1/2 lengths and the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (gr. I) by 4 1/4 lengths in a similar late-running style while earning $1,420,600 in her juvenile campaign.
Rain is forecast in Southern California starting Feb. 5, and showers are expected to continue over the following three days. But Frankel was not concerned about the weather. "The track will be OK,” he said.
Stardom Bound, now owned by IEAH Stables (who paid $5.7 million for her at auction in November), Paul Pompa, and partners, is expected to be transferred to the barn of Rick Dutrow Jr. later this year. She was owned previously by Charles Cono and trained by Christopher Paasch.
Mike Smith, aboard for all of her previous five races, will once again ride Stardom Bound, who carries top weight of 122 pounds and drew post 5. Her new connections have said they could tangle with males in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) this spring.
The Las Virgenes also attracted Century Park, winner of the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles in her last start Jan. 11. Sent off at 24-1, she led all the way in defeating favored Haka by one length in spite of drifting out on the far turn.
Donald Dizney's Florida homebred daughter of General Meeting is trained by Bob Baffert, who also entered Toro Bonito in the Las Virgenes. Tyler Baze has the return engagement on Century Park. John Velazquez picks up the mount on the grade I-placed Toro Bonito, an El Corredor filly who finished seventh in the Santa Ysabel.
Claiborne Farm's Haka, a 5 1/2-length maiden winner prior to the Santa Ysabel, has also entered the Las Virgenes. Christophe Clement trains the daughter of Dynaformer.
African Skies, a daughter of Johannesburg bred in Great Britain, was a group III winner at Ascot in July and makes her United States debut here for trainer Patrick Biancone.
California-bred Saucey Evening is a multiple stakes winner who has won three times in six starts for earnings of $250,390 for Augustin Stables and trainer H. Graham Motion.
Pinkarella was a stylish maiden winner by more than five lengths in her debut at 6 1/2 furlongs for trainer Doug O'Neill on Dec. 21 at Hollywood Park.
$300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I, Race 6, 3:05 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 Mile (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Navigator (KY), 116, Victor Espinoza
2. African Skies (GB), 116, Joseph Talamo
3. Century Park (FL), 118, Tyler Baze
4. Nan (KY), 116, Corey S. Nakatani
5. Stardom Bound (KY), 122, Mike E. Smith
6. Haka (KY), 116, Rafael Bejarano
7. Saucey Evening (CA), 118, Garrett K. Gomez
8. Toro Bonito (KY), 116, John R. Velazquez
9. Pinkarella (KY), 116, Joel Rosario