After beaten 16 lengths by Moonlight d’Oro when debuting in a maiden race at Los Alamitos Race Course Dec. 13, Moraz gets her chance for a do-over in the $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park Feb. 6.
Their second meeting in the Las Virgenes would appear a fairer fight. Don Alberto Stable’s Moraz now has two starts under her belt, capped by an 11-length maiden score at Santa Anita Jan. 8, and the strength of that race has made her the co-second choice at 5-2 odds in a five-horse field that also includes Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) winner Kalypso and longshots Honor America and Brilliant Cut.
“I was a little perplexed by her first race. Basically, just kind of reflecting on that—first time shipping somewhere to run, first start, a paddock that’s foreign to her,” said trainer Michael McCarthy. “I thought she ran a respectable race that day. I was surprised she was beaten as far as she was.
“She came back at Santa Anita in her second start and validated the way she’s been training.”
Did she ever. Rated in third for the first half of the mile contest, she took command before the six-furlong call and drew away under jockey Umberto Rispoli. The daughter of Empire Maker was timed on a fast track in 1:38.47, a deceptively quick time on a tiring racetrack.
Breaking from the rail in the Las Virgenes, she figures to stalk, likely positioned a few lengths behind frontrunners Kalypso and Honor America.
The Las Virgenes is a two-turn mile race on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, a race that offers qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to its top four finishers. The stakes also serves as a local prep for the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G2) April 3.
The Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks were formerly grade 1s before they were downgraded by the American Graded Stakes Committee. The Las Virgenes dropped to a grade 2 in 2016 and dips another level for 2021.The Santa Anita Oaks went from a grade 1 to a grade 2 in 2020.
Though both races have struggled to attract top-to-bottom depth, influencing their grades, some top-class fillies have won either of the two races. During the prior decade, Blind Luck (2010), Beholder (2013), and Songbird (2016) captured the Las Virgenes on their way to 3-year-old filly championships. Beholder and Songbird also won the Santa Anita Oaks, as did last year’s champion sophomore filly, Swiss Skydiver.
Saturday’s field has at least several fillies with promise, though Kalypso is the only existing stakes winner. Moonlight d’Oro is favored at even money following her Los Alamitos maiden triumph, which earned her a 100 Equibase Speed Figure, one of the highest by a 2-year-old filly in 2020.
“These races, they don’t get any easier the farther we get into the spring,” McCarthy said.
Moonlight d’Oro, a Medaglia d’Oro filly trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella for owners Myracehorse and Spendthrift Farm, ran second and third in a pair of sprints before her breakthrough win at a route.
Flavien Prat—aboard the last two Las Virgenes winners, Venetian Harbor (2020) and Bellafina (2019)—is up.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who runs Kalypso for David Bernsen, Rockingham Ranch, and Chad Littlefield, is a five-time winner of the Las Virgenes, last capturing it with Dream Tree in 2018. He has named Joel Rosario for a return ride on Kalypso.
Entries: Las Virgenes S. (G3)Santa Anita Park, Saturday, February 06, 2021, Race 3Grade III1mDirt $200,0003 yo Fillies1:03 PM (local)