California’s march to the 143rd Kentucky Oaks (GI) set for May 5 at Churchill Downs gets underway on Sunday as a field of nine newly turned 3-year-old fillies will race the seven furlongs of the $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes (GII), the eighth race on a nine-race program at Santa Anita. Post time for the main event has been set for 4:00 p.m. PT.
The rainy weather from Saturday is expected to dry out on Sunday, so expect a fast track and mostly sunny skies with highs in the upper 60s. The winner of the Santa Ynez will earn 10 Kentucky Oaks points, while the runner-up will be rewarded with four, two for third and one for fourth.
Since it was first run in 1952, some legends of the division have won the Santa Ynez, including Turkish Trousers, Susan’s Girl, Terlingua, Very Subtle, Serena’s Song and Indian Blessing.
Shane’s Girlfriend is undefeated in two starts, including her 13-length romp in the Delta Downs Princess Stakes (GIII) in mid-November. Now back at her home base of Santa Anita, she faces much tougher company but appears to have the goods to keep her winning streak alive. She’s a winner at Santa Anita, has top jockey Flavien Prat aboard and has been training expertly since her last race. It’s hard to gauge the kind of competition she’s faced and defeated, but her speed figures are strong and a repeat of her last makes her a top contender. She’ll likely either set the pace or sit off it and will be tough for any of her rivals to pass in the lane.
Noted and Quoted won the Chandelier Stakes (GI) over the Santa Anita track back in October before faltering in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) and getting a brief break to make her return down the Kentucky Oaks path. The diminutive daughter of The Factor — at her best — can run with the leaders of her division, but she’s performed so irregularly it’s hard to know which Noted and Quoted will show up. The Bob Baffert trainee has been looking well in the mornings and is racing at a distance she can handle; and since she’ll likely get a quick pace in front of her to stalk, she looms a serious threat to win under new pilot Martin Garcia.
Don Alberto Stable’s Unique Bella makes her stakes debut off a 10 1/4-length trouncing of maiden special weight rivals at Del Mar in late November. The daughter of Tapit and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) winner Unrivaled Belle, who was purchased for $400,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2015, is another making her stakes debut, but there’s been a lot of hype surrounding the gray Jerry Hollendorfer trainee and she’s been working lights out in the morning. She won’t need to improve much off her last to win and if she can survive what will likely be a hotly contested pace duel, she should be a good bet in any exotics.
Princess Karen enters this race off a nice maiden victory nearly three months ago. She showed a lot of talent in her maiden victory and the runner-up that day, Go On Mary, came back to win her next start and is a rival in here today. She’s shown talent in the mornings for trainer Jeff Bonde, but as one of the many expected to be on the lead she may have some trouble in her first start against winners.
Go On Mary broke her maiden and came back to falter badly in the Lost Alamitos Starlet (GI) last month. Trainer Doug O’Neill switches riders to Jamie Theriot hoping for some improvement, so it’s a good thing she has a lot of room to do so against this field.
Sandy’s Surprise also faltered in the Los Alamitos Starlet and is back to give it a go in graded stakes company. The daughter of Drosselmeyer gets the services of regular Doug O’Neill rider Mario Gutierrez and deserves a long look in the post parade for exotics.
It Tiz Well also makes her stakes debut after a double-digit trouncing of maiden foes in her last start. She has the connections to get the job done and appears to have a versatile running style, which will only help in this race full of speed.
Resilient Humor’s best quality in this field off her maiden victory is that she’s a closer in a test loaded with speed. The innermost post position at seven furlongs isn’t ideal, but she does pick up a Hall of Fame pilot in Kent Desormeaux, which can only help.
Hard to imagine maiden winner Carrie will be a factor, but stranger things have happened.