Millionaire 4-year-old filly Evening Jewel, facing possible retirement just last month, will carry high weight of 122 pounds and likely favoritism in the $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap (gr. IIT) Feb. 21 at Santa Anita.
The Buena Vista, for fillies and mares at one mile on turf, is one of two graded stakes races that highlight a special Presidents’ Day racing program on Monday with first post for the nine-race card at 12:30 p.m. PST.
The other stakes is the $100,000 La Habra (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-old fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. It attracted 14 entrants including three also-eligibles. The starting field will be limited to 11. Grade I winners A Z Warrior and Rigoletta launch comebacks in the La Habra, which goes as the sixth race.
Evening Jewel, a California-bred daughter of Northern Afleet trained by Jim Cassidy for Marilyn Braly, will face 10 rivals in the Buena Vista. She drew post 11 and regular rider Victor Espinoza will be in the saddle.
Evening Jewel might have been heading toward the breeding shed if she had not turned the corner with a sparkling victory in the Jan. 29 Sunshine Millions Distaff following a dismal showing four weeks earlier in the Monrovia Stakes (gr. IIIT).
Cassidy had both physical and mental concerns about the filly following her fifth-place showing in the Monrovia. “I wasn’t sure how she would run after that, but the closer we got to the Distaff, the better she was doing. Still, I was a little apprehensive,” he said,
Evening Jewel rallied from seventh to take the Distaff by a half-length over Amazing to redeem herself in the main track competition over 1 1/16 miles. “She came out of the race sensational,” Cassidy noted.
When on her game, Evening Jewel handles any kind of surface. She won the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) on turf last summer, the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) over Polytrack at Keeneland, and missed by a nose to 3-year-old champion Blind Luck in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) over Churchill Downs’ dirt.
After capturing the Del Mars Oaks, Evening Jewel had been first or second in 11 of her 12 starts while topping the million-dollar mark in earnings. Her overall record stands at 7-5-2 in 16 starts. She has earnings of $1,182,943.
Briecat, weighted at 120 pounds with Patrick Valenzuela to ride, will be the one to catch in the Buena Vista. With Valenzuela aboard, the 6-year-old Adcat mare went wire-to-wire in winning Oak Tree’s Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) last October. She faded to fifth behind Evening Jewel in her season debut in the Sunshine Millions Distaff.
Trained by Vladimir Cerin for David and Holly Wilson, Briecat has won nine of 26 career starts while earning $554,805.
Spring Style, also weighted at 120 pounds, has won her last two starts for trainer Ben Cecil. Most recently, she nipped 3-10 favorite Harmonious by a nose in the Robert J. Frankel Stakes (gr. IIT) on New Year’s Day while going nine furlongs. Garrett Gomez has the return riding call.
The 6-year-old Irish-bred mare, owned by Kristina Cecil, the trainer’s wife, and Zillah Reddam, shows an overall record of 5-1-2 in 16 races for earnings of $245,477.
$150,000 Buena Vista Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Turning Top (IRE), B Blanc, 119, S Callaghan
2. Restless Soul (GB), A Quinonez, 115, N D Drysdale
3. Cozi Rosie (KY), M E Smith, 119, J W Sadler
4. Bonnie Blue Flag (KY), M Garcia, 116, B Baffert
5. Malibu Pier (KY), R Bejarano, 115, C Gaines
6. Lilly Fa Pootz (KY), J Rosario, 117, J Hollendorfer
7. Spring Style (IRE), G K Gomez, 120, B D Cecil
8. Burg Berg (KY), M A Pedroza, 117, J P Gonzalez
9. Briecat (FL), P A Valenzuela, 120, V Cerin
10. It Tiz (KY), D R Flores 118, M Glatt
11. Evening Jewel (CA), V Espinoza, 122, J M Cassidy
12. Prytania (FL) (AE), C Sutherland, 114, J W Sadler
13. Late Cuddle (NZ) (AE), J Talamo, 114, J Hollendorfer