Eden's Moon thrust herself into Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks consideration with a scintillating 11 1/2-length maiden win on January 8, and solidified her position with a front-running victory while making her stakes debut next out in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes. On Saturday, the Bob Baffert-trained Malibu Moon daughter will face off against Las Virgenes second Reneesgotzip once again as the pair take part in the Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks in their final prep for the big dance.
Eden's Moon and Reneesgotzip each have a win over the other after the former ran second to her rival in her career debut in December. Reneesgotzip was 2 1/4 lengths clear in that six-furlong Cushion Track contest, but Eden's Moon returned on the stretch out to a mile when capturing her first score just 21 days later on the conventional dirt surface at Santa Anita.
In the meantime, Reneesgotzip went on to move her career line to a perfect two-for-two when adding the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes to her record while sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs. The pair met again in the Las Virgenes, and Reneesgotzip was never able to get close to her opponent while easily best of the rest.
Eden's Moon will keep Martin Garcia aboard for the 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita Oaks, but Reneesgotzip, a City Zip chestnut, will get a rider switch to Garrett Gomez after having been ridden by Corey Nakatani in her first three starts.
Only three other sophomore fillies are entered to line-up against the top pair, and Willa B Awesome should be able to complete the trifecta. The Awesome Gambler filly was fourth in the Las Virgenes following a 3 1/2-length score in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes in late January. The Walther Solis pupil towers over this field in experience, having already racked up a 3-3-2 mark from 11 starts, and keeps jockey Martin Pedroza in the irons.
Bella's Fantasy and Conjure the Spirit complete the field, with each seeking her first victory against winners.
The Santa Anita Oaks is scheduled to go off as the 4TH race, and there are a pair of rich state-bred stakes set for later in the card. First up is the $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes featuring 13 sophomore fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs. Briteness, a High Brite daughter trained by Carla Gaines, broke her maiden by 10 1/2 lengths in early February, but was outdueled in an allowance last out by the returning Vicki Victoria, a Mike Harrington-conditioned Swiss Yodeler filly.
Two races later, 13 three-year-olds will take part in the $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes at the same 6 1/2-furlong distance. Pulpit's Express captured his last two starts by a combined 11 3/4 lengths, and the Lucky Pulpit gelding could add a third straight in this spot.