Grade I Las Virgenes Analysis, Santa Anita Park – 3/2/13

Las Virgenes PP’s with annotations

(If you open the PP’s and use Adobe Reader to view them, you’ll find my annotations…if you just open the link, you’ll find the original PP’s)

The 2013 rendition of the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes is a bit of a head scratcher in my opinion. Based on the numbers, Beholder is supposed to walk over this field, however I’m having a really hard time figuring out what to make of her three-year old debut in the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes. In the Santa Ynez, Beholder sat a few lengths off of a hot early pace before confronting the leader, Dawn’s Charm, and in the process engaging in a duel that produced a half mile time of :43 and 3. The two fillies continued to duel down the stretch, but predictably wilted in the final 1/16th of a mile, allowing Renee’s Titan to slide through on the rail and run on to victory. Part of me wants to be lenient in analyzing that performance from Beholder, as it was her first start since her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies triumph in November, and the fact that not many horses can be expected to win races in which they’re part of a wicked speed duel. At the same time, we are talking about Santa Anita, which is prone to electric fractions and a severe speed bias. The other thing that really sticks out to me is, even with a huge amount of early speed, there was only one horse that made up any significant ground in the Santa Ynez, and that was the winner, Renee’s Titan. This makes me question the overall quality of the field that these fillies encountered that day. Add in the fact that Renee’s Titan received a slow Beyer Speed Figure of 75 for her victory, and I can’t help but be skeptical of all of the ladies coming out of that race. Beholder may have been Champion Two Year Old Filly in 2012 – but we’re in 2013 now. She should be out on the lead, but I’m going to be taking a shot against her.

Fiftyshadesofhay will almost surely be the second choice based on her connections (Baffert/Bejarano/Pegram and Co.) and the nice 90 Beyer Speed Figure in her last start. While she did run huge in her last race, I can’t help but be skeptical of that effort because of the wet surface. From a trip standpoint, I’d imagine she’ll settle into a nice spot, sitting just off Beholder. She’s already going to offer very little value, and she’s going to have to prove to me that the wet track wasn’t her best friend last time out – I’m passing on Fiftyshadesofhay.

Heir Kitty is a nice filly out of the Peter Miller barn, but I think she’s just a cut below her competition. She’s been ambitiously placed throughout her career, and I think she may be in need of some class relief. While I don’t think this field is a group of world beaters, I still believe Heir Kitty needs a more realistic spot for her next run. Julien Leparoux has the mount.

If I’m going to question Beholder because of the race she’s coming out of, I have to also question the winner of said race. Renee’s Titan had every reason to win the Santa Ynez last out – an opening quarter in :21 and a half in :43 and 3 is about as ideal a pace scenario as a closer can ask for…and when I say closer, I mean closer (she was hardly in sight throughout much of the race). Add the slow winning Beyer to the mix, and I’m eliminating Renee’s Titan.

In a race where I see questions everywhere, I’m going to go with a filly that has never raced on a dirt surface. Speedinthruthecity hasn’t raced since October when she was running in the Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland out of the barn of Peter Miller. Since then, she’s gotten quite a bit of time off and has been sent to the barn of Steve Asmussen. She’s been working steadily over the past two months, and Asmussen boasts a 21% winning percentage with newcomers to his barn. Speedinthruthecity sheds the blinkers for the Las Virgenes, marking the first time in her career she’ll be racing without shades. Joe Talamo gets the mount, which is interesting when you consider he had been the rider of Jerry Hollendorfer‘s entry, Scarlet Strike, in her previous five starts. I’ll be surprised if she goes to post near her morning line of 12-1, but I would expect to get a price somewhere in the vicinity of 7-1 or 8-1 on Speedinthruthecity in the Las Virgenes on Saturday.

SELECTION: 4 – Speedinthruthecity, Joe Talamo; ML 12-1

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