Baffert's Faiza holds off Pride of the Nile to win Las Virgenes

Baffert's Faiza holds off Pride of the Nile to win Las Virgenes
Photo: Bonoit Photo / Santa Anita

Off as the even-money favorite, Bob Baffert’s Faiza saved ground early and took command a quarter-mile from home en route to a half-length score over Pride of the Nile in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Ramon Vazquez, Faiza remained unbeaten in three starts while getting a flat mile in 1:38.46.

Attentive to the pace, Faiza, a $725,000 2-year-old in training sale purchase in May, was third, 1 3/4 lengths behind pacesetter Sweet Trouble three furlongs from home and was all-out to hold off the late charge of the Doug O’Neill-trained Pride of the Nile who was gaining ground wide-out.

Idle since taking the Starlet Stakes (G1) going 1 1/16 miles at Los Alamitos Dec. 10, Faiza, in a field of six sophomore fillies, paid $4.00, $2.60 and $2.10.

“I’d like to thank Bob Baffert and the owner for the opportunity and support,” said Vazquez, who was aboard Faiza for the first time today with regular rider Flavien Prat away to ride at Oaklawn Park. “I wanted to get out in the clear and put my filly in a good position. She’s a nice filly, when I asked her, she responded really well. She’s amazing.”

Owned by Michael Lund Petersen, Faiza is by Girvin out of the Smart Strike mare Sweet Pistol. With the winner’s share of $120,000, she increased her earnings to $342,000.

A close fourth around the far turn, Pride of the Nile, with Juan Hernandez up, split horses a quarter mile out and despite lugging in some late, finished like a filly that will appreciate added distance. Second to Faiza in the Starlet, Pride of the Nile was off at 7-2 and paid $3.40 and $2.60.

Customarily far back early, Justique rallied from last but never threatened the top two while finishing third, 2 ½ lengths behind Pride of the Nile.

The second choice at 2-1, Justique, with Victor Espinoza up, paid $2.40 to show.

Fractions on the Las Virgenes were 22.41, 47.04, 1:11.92 and 1:25.12.

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