In the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) April 5, they'll all be trying to catch Fashion Plate, the fleet-footed filly who could use the 1 1/16-mile race as a springboard to the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) in a month's time.
The Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) winner figures to be winging from the rail, the style she has employed in her two most recent victories for trainer Simon Callaghan. Gary Stevens will be back aboard Fashion Plate, a daughter of Old Fashioned who races for owners Arnold Zetcher and Michael Tabor.
Saturday's Santa Anita Oaks, which precedes the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), is part of the Arcadia track's biggest program since the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) headlined the March 9 card.
Trainer Eoin Harty, who saddled Godolphin's Arethusa to a deep-closing third-place finish in the Feb. 1 Las Virgenes, didn't dance around when he was asked about his A.P. Indy filly's chances this time.
"It all depends on how the track is, because if it’s the same way it was for the Big ’Cap and the San Felipe, she’ll be running for minor placings," Harty said.
The Santa Anita Oaks, race 5 on the card with a 2 p.m. PDT scheduled post, also features the return to Southern California racing of Ria Antonia, winner by disqualification of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) last fall. Christopher Dunn and Looch Racing Stable's Rockport Harbor filly makes her first start for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, a two-time winner of the Santa Anita Oaks.
Kentucky-bred Fashion Plate is set for her fifth lifetime start in the Santa Anita Oaks, and she has been lights out for her opponents in two tries at the current meet.
A front-running 6 1/2-length maiden winner going six furlongs Dec. 29, Fashion Plate stretched out for the first time in the one-mile Las Virgenes and earned a career high Beyer figure of 83 when dispatched at odds of 9-2. The dark bay filly went gate-to-wire in the Las Virgenes, defeating grade I winner Streaming by half a length, with Arethusa three-quarters of length farther back in third.
The question for Fashion Plate this time could be the additional distance. Following an opening half mile of :46.26, she ran the final quarter mile of the Las Virgenes in 26.31 seconds while managing to hang on gamely.
In addition to Arethusa, Fashion Plate will be taking on another confirmed closer in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner Ria Antonia, looking to get back in form for her new trainer after a slow start to her 2014 campaign.
Ria Antonia was previously in the barn of Jeremiah Englehart, but owner Ron Paolucci of Loooch Racing made the decision to transfer Ria Antonia to Baffert in order to have her supervised locally as she targeted the Santa Anita Oaks.
In her only start this season, the bay filly finished a tiring fourth in the Feb. 22 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) behind leading Kentucky Oaks prospect Untapable at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Ria Antonia will shed blinkers, which she wore in her two most recent starts including the Breeders' Cup. She has been training very well locally as Mike Smith takes the call for Baffert.
Callaghan entered another speedy filly in Bajan, who was fifth in her only start of the season, the Sweet Life Stakes Feb. 15 on the hillside turf course. The Speightstown miss won Santa Anita's six-furlong Anoakia Stakes last season as well as the Moccasin Stakes at seven furlongs at Hollywood Park. Well beaten in the 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) two starts back on Dec. 7, Bajan will try two turns for the second time in the Oaks for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Ronald Frankel.
Arethusa looms a stout threat for Harty if Fashion Plate can be softened up a bit by the pace. A winner of the 1 1/16-miles Sharp Cat Stakes three starts back at Hollywood Park Nov. 16, Arethusa will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano on Saturday.
"She will certainly appreciate the extra distance," said Harty.
Peachtree Stable's Artemis made little impact on Fashion Plate in the Las Virgenes after a slow start, but the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained daughter of Empire Maker came back to finish second to Awesome Baby over a wet/fast track in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel (gr. III) March 1. A one-mile maiden winner three starts back, she has the benefit of having run five times in the past 4 1/2 months.
Honey Ride steps up for trainer John Sadler and owners Jerry and Ann Moss off an impressive 2 3/4-length maiden score at one mile March 2. It was her third start for Sadler, who won the Oaks in 2010 with Crisp. Tyler Baze retains the mount on Honey Ride, a well-bred daughter of Candy Ride out of the Stormin Fever mare Tarlow, winner of the 2005 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr. I).
Reddam Racing homebred Smoove It was third in the Sweet Life last time, and the maiden KIssin Lucky Lips complete the field.
$400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I, Race 5, 2 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Fashion Plate (KY), G L Stevens, S Callaghan
2. Kissin Lucky Lips (KY), B Blanc, M Puype
3. Ria Antonia (KY), M E Smith, B Baffert
4. Honey Ride (KY), T Baze, J W Sadler
5. Arethusa (KY), R Bejarano, E G Harty
6. Artemis (KY), V Espinoza, J Hollendorfer
7. Bajan (KY), J Talamo, S Callaghan
8. Smoove It (CA), M Gutierrez, D F O'Neill
All assigned 122 pounds.
Blinkers Off: Ria Antonia