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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Toasting with Andrew Champagne

Las Virgenes Stakes Pros and Cons

Streaming 615 X 400
Photo: Benoit Photos


In recent years, few early-season races in Southern California have produced as many top-class horses as the Las Virgenes Stakes, which will be run Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita Park. Three of the last seven renewals have been won by champions Rags to Riches, Blind Luck, and Beholder, and this weekend, eight 3-year-old fillies will go postward in an attempt to earn 50 Kentucky Oaks points. Here's a look at the field.

1) Saintly Joan (15-1)

Pros: If you toss her run in the Blue Norther Stakes on New Year's Day on turf, she fits. The John O'Hara trainee has a win at Santa Anita, and two back, she ran third in a stakes race at Betfair Hollywood Park. Martin Pedroza stays on.

Cons: She didn't beat much in her win here last October, and the daughter of Northern Afleet was beaten more than 17 lengths in her lone top-three performance against winners.

2) Fashion Plate (4-1)

Pros: She's gotten better with every start. Her victory last out was accomplished in wire-to-wire fashion over this surface, and the internal fractions (:21.97 for the quarter, :44.89 for the half) were sizzling. Gary Stevens will ride.

Cons: She stretches out to two turns, and that could be a dicey proposition given a pedigree that doesn't scream stamina. This is also her first effort against winners, and she may not have beaten much in her maiden-breaking romp.

3) Arethusa (8-1)

Pros: She may have been left with too much to do last out in the Hollywood Starlet. She rated 11 lengths off a very modest early pace, and she rallied a bit to finish fifth. If she runs back to her triumph two back in the Sharp Cat, this filly, bred to love two turns, could be a live longshot.

Cons: That stakes victory is her lone win to date in five career starts, including two failed tries at Santa Anita. Given her two starts at Hollywood Park, a synthetic surface, she may not be at her best on conventional dirt.

4) Artemis (4-1)

Pros: She's never run a bad one in three career starts. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee prevailed in a hotly-contested maiden race last out, and it came at this eight-furlong distance. Mike Smith hops aboard, and he's been winning at an astonishing clip.

Cons: Like many others, this is her first try against winners. The second-place finisher behind her last out, one who finished just a length behind Artemis, finished a pretty distant third at next asking.

5) Earthflight (15-1)

Pros: A shipper from across the pond, this one had a solid, if unspectacular, 2-year-old campaign, winning three races. She gets Lasix for the first time, and Tyler Baze has ridden well since his return from a lengthy suspension.

Cons: We don't know if she can run on dirt, and she hasn't run since mid-November.

6) Sushi Empire (8-1)

Pros: She broke her maiden in the Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita on New Year's Day, beating fellow Las Virgenes entrant Saintly Joan and graded stakes-winner Full Ransom, among others. Her pedigree (by Empire Maker, out of a Danzig mare) is exceptional, and the distance shouldn't be an issue.

Cons: That stakes win came on turf. In fact, she's never run on dirt, and while her lone recent dirt work (a five-furlong drill on January 27th) wasn't bad, this seems like an ambitious spot for a horse whose accomplishments have all come on the lawn.

7) Taste Like Candy (5/2)

Pros: She's never run a bad one, and has twice run second in graded stakes races. Her run in the Santa Ynez was strong, as she was forced to the rail before rallying late going shorter. Before that, she ran a very good second in the Hollywood Starlet, and the potent Bejarano-Hollendorfer duo is present.

Cons: That loss in the Starlet came to Streaming, who lines up to her outside in this spot. She'll want to contest the early lead, and she may have to battle Fashion Plate for it.

8) Streaming (2-1)

Pros: The lone Grade 1 winner in this field, the Bob Baffert trainee is a perfect 2-for-2. Her local worktab is exceptional, and she doesn't look like a horse who will have trouble switching from a synthetic surface to dirt.

Cons: This isn't a great post. With the short run to the first turn, the daughter of Smart Strike could be parked wide early on, and she'll need to be within striking distance of what could be a contentious early pace.


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Older Comments about Las Virgenes Stakes Pros and Cons...

Really like the Baffert filly. Doesn't need the lead to win. Fashion Plate will lead in the early stages but I don't believe will be there in the end. Hollendorfer 2,3 with Taste Like Candy and Artemis.
Taste Like Candy to take over the lead from Fashion Plate. Streaming , Artemis, the 1. So, 7, 8 maybe 1, 4. At least two good Oaks fillies out of these.

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Meet Andrew Champagne


A native of upstate New York and a graduate of Ithaca College, Andrew Champagne fell in love with horse racing at a very early age on summer trips to Saratoga. His turf writing credits include time spent as a sportswriter, weekly columnist, and handicapper at The Saratogian, a summer working for The Saratoga Special, and "field research" at OTB facilities in Saratoga Springs and his hometown of Kingston. He also spent two years in the athletic communications office at Siena College, and interned with NBC Olympics at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Andrew moved to Pasadena, Calif., in October of 2013, and now serves as an Associate Producer in HRTV's Digital Media department and Horse Racing Nation's Southern California writer. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne, and email him at andrewdchampagne@gmail.com.

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