Just five 3-year-old fillies are entered in the $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), but three of them are already grade I winners: Turbulent Descent, Zazu and A Z Warrior.
John Sadler, who saddles Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) winner Zazu, will be looking for a grade I double with odds-on favorite Twirling Candy and Gladding in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) later on the card. So Will Bob Baffert, who has a quartet going in the Big 'Cap and entered last year's Frizette Stakes (gr. I) winner A Z Warrior in the Oaks as well as the grade III winner May Day Rose.
The 1 1/16-mile Oaks is the fourth race on the program with a 1:30 p.m. PST post, to be followed later in the day by the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) and the Big 'Cap.
Sadler, whose horses won three graded stakes on Santa Anita’s opening day, has eight graded victories at the meet. One of the most impressive was turned in by Ann and Jerry Moss' Zazu, who rallied from last to sweep past 2-5 favorite Turbulent Descent en route to a 1 1/4-length win in the one-mile Las Virgenes Feb. 5.
The gray daughter of Tapit has burst into prominence over Santa Anita’s new dirt surface after beginning her career on synthetic tracks at Del Mar and Hollywood Park. After her closing surge fell a neck short in the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 15, Zazu was not to be denied in the Las Virgenes. Her second win in six starts elevated her earnings to $240,985. She was purchased as a yearling by the Mosses for $285,000.
With Joel Rosario aboard, Zazu won for the first time in three tries against the previously unbeaten Turbulent Dancer, who defeated her twice at Hollywood Park in the Moccasin Stakes and the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I).
“She has a short run and she wants to close,” Sadler said following Zazu’s breakout effort in the Las Virgenes. “In some of those other races, it hadn’t played that way.”
Sadler won the Santa Anita Oaks for the first time last year when Michael Talla's Crisp outdueled All Due Respect and champion 3-year-old filly Blind Luck.
Mike Puype, who trains Turbulent Descent for Blinkers On Racing Stable and partners, felt the Las Virgenes loss was due to a two-month layoff. “She probably got a little tired," he said.
The Florida-bred daughter of Congrats , strongly favored in all four of her starts, has earned $378,350. She has been working swiftly for the rematch. David Flores will be back in the irons.
Baffert, who won the Santa Anita Oaks in 2003 with Bob and Beverly Lewis' Composure and in 1999 with Golden Eagle Farm's Excellent Meeting, trains A Z Warrior for Zayat Stables. The homebred daughter of Bernardini has not raced since fading to 12th and last at 4-1 in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 5. It was her first try around two turns.
A Z Warrior has put together a series of fast works for her return and will be ridden for the first time by Rafael Bejarano. Her Frizette win, by 1 1 3/4 lengths over R Heat Lightning, was at one mile. She has won two of her five starts.
Baffert also has entered Kaleem Shah’s May Day Rose, a front-runner who should assure a solid pace with Martin Garcia in the saddle. May Day Rose went wire-to-wire in winning Santa Anita’s Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 9. She ran fourth in both the Hollywood Starlet and the Las Virgenes.
Kilograeme, undefeated in two starts for Little Red Feather Racing and partners, is entered for her stakes debut by trainer Mike Mitchell.
$250,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I, Race 4, 1:30 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. May Day Rose (FL), M Garcia, B Baffert
2. Zazu (KY), J Rosario, J W Sadler
3. Turbulent Descent (FL), D R Flores, M Puype
4. Kilograeme (FL), G K Gomez, M R Mitchell
5. A Z Warrior (KY), R Bejarano, B Baffert
All carry 122 pounds.