Composure, center, leads the field to the finish line in the Las Virgenes.

Composure, center, leads the field to the finish line in the Las Virgenes.


Composure Edges Elloluv in Las Virgenes

Composure outfought Elloluv to the wire to win Sunday's exciting renewal of the $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita. Under jockey Jerry Bailey, Composure completed the one-mile main track event in 1:36.13, a neck-length ahead of her rival.

Elloluv went right to the front under Patrick Valenzuela as the six-horse field traveled in a tight pack through the first half-mile. Favola was the first to back out as Elloluv completed six furlongs in 1:11.86 to extend her lead to 1 1/2 lengths over Watching You. Composure had moved up along the rail to third from fifth. Heading into the lane, Composure moved into a gap inside Elloluv but could not get by the leader. Bailey then guided 4-5 favorite Composure to the outside, and she began to edge into Elloluv's advantage. With both Bailey and Valenzuela using right-handed whipping, the two dueled to the wire, with Bailey switching to aggressive hand riding as they approached the finish line.

"It was a great effort especially considering she gave up three lengths at the break (when Composure stumbled) and then I had to alter course with her (in the stretch), so it was a lot for her to overcome," said Bailey. "I thought she showed great courage to get up and win like that."

"I knew it was going to be tight," said winning trainer Bob Baffert. "That other filly (Elloluv) is a quick filly and going a mile I knew she was going to have an edge on us. I'm glad the rest of the races are further now. I don't know (if he'll look at the Santa Anita Oaks). We're just going to play it by ear, see how she comes out of it, see how much time she needs and all that. We're just going to go and enjoy it right now."

Watching You finished third, three lengths behind 13-10 second choice Elloluv and eight lengths ahead of Puxa Saco. Maddie's Charm and Favola completed the order of finish on the fast track.

Trainer Craig Dollase was happy with the performance of the runner-up

"I'm happy," he said. "What are you going to do? She ran her butt off like she always does. Pat (Valenzuela) really slowed the pace down. I thought he rode her great. She just got head-bobbed there, that's all. We'll be equal weights next time (should Composure run back in the March 8 Santa Anita Oaks)."

The win marks the third in seven starts for Composure, who earned owners Beverly and Bob Lewis $120,000 for the victory. The 3-year-old daughter of Touch Gold (out of the Alleged mare Party Cited) also won the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II) and finished a gutsy second to champion Storm Flag Flying in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). She was bred in Kentucky by Rancho San Peasea S A. (Chart, Equibase)