Eden's Moon finishes strong to win the Las Virgenes Stakes.

Eden's Moon finishes strong to win the Las Virgenes Stakes.

Benoit Photo

Eden's Moon Shines Bright in Las Virgenes

Baffert-trained filly draws away from heavily favored Reneesgotzip at Santa Anita.

Eden's Moon took a big step toward the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) when she drew away from 6-5 favorite Reneesgotzip in the homestretch to take the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) by 3 1/4 lengths in her stakes debut March 3 at Santa Anita (VIDEO).

Ridden by Martin Garcia, front-running Eden's Moon withstood a claim of foul from Peter Miller, the trainer of Reneesgotzip over a bumping incident in the stretch run. Jockey Corey Nakatani contended that Garcia struck Reneesgotzip with his stick while the two fillies were in close quarters. Stewards disallowed the objection.

Eden's Moon, who pulled away from Reneesgotzip after the bump as the 5-2 second choice in the field of eight, earned her second win in three starts for owner Kaleem Shah and trainer Bob Baffert. A daughter of Malibu Moon  bred in Florida by Bridlewood Farm, Eden's Moon was timed in 1:35.27 for the one-mile test of 3-year-old fillies.

Out of the Giant's Causeway  mare Eden's Causeway, Eden's Moon was a $390,000 2-year-old in training purchase last May.

“I was hoping we’d be on the lead, get her out there and get her into a groove," Baffert said. "I felt we could handle the distance."

Baffert said he would consider the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) at 1 1/16 miles March 31 next for Eden's Moon.

"We’ll see how she comes out of this and keep her happy," Baffert said. "We want to take her to the Kentucky Oaks (May 4), so that’s what we’re pointing for.”

Facing winners for the first time, Eden's Moon was coming off an 11 1/2-length victory over maidens going one mile at Santa Anita Jan. 8. She had been entered to run in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 28 but was scratched with a minor setback.

Eden's Moon lost to Reneesgotzip in her maiden debut Dec. 18 on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, beaten by 2 1/4 lengths as the 2-5 favorite going six furlongs.

But she's a different filly around two turns. Garcia decided to take it to the speedy favorite right of the gate and the tactic couldn't have worked out better when Reneesgotzip, on the outside, floated extremely wide on the clubhouse turn.

Reneesgotzip recovered to challenge Eden's Moon early on the backstretch and after a :23.16 opening quarter mile, they dueled through a half in :46.47. The two top fillies began to separate from the rest of the field as they reached the quarter pole in 1:10.44.

Eden's Moon was determined coming out of the turn as Reneesgotzip drifted inward in upper stretch. The scopy filly took control under right-handed urging from Garcia after the two came together. She was unchallenged in the final furlong.

"Even though they put pressure on her right out of the gate, she relaxed for me," Garcia said. "(Reneesgotzip) pressed me real hard going to the far turn and she bumped my filly’s hind end which turned her a little sideways and she switched leads.”

The $150,000 purse pushed Eden's Moon career total to $192,600. The winning bay paid $7, $3.60, and $3.40.

The Lanni Family Trust's Reneesgotzip won her first two starts by a combined 10 lengths, including a 7 3/4-length triumph in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II). She returned $3 and $3 in a game effort and completed a $16.80 exacta.

“You can see where she shifts out and Martin hits my horse across the face with the whip twice," Nakatani complained. "My filly just popped her head up. When a horse gets hit in the face...the tape shows that, and you can see it. As far as I know, the rules state that you’re supposed to take the horse down when that happens."

Open Water, ridden in her stakes debut by Victor Espinoza for trainer Eric Guillot and Southern Equine Stable and Mike Smith, paid $7. She finished 2 3/4 lengths behind the runner-up.

Then came Willa B Awesome, Your Special Day, Made to Love Her, Killer Graces, and Charm the Maker.