June 29, 2022

Adare Manor cruises in Las Virgenes

Adare Manor and jockey John Velazquez win the Las Virgenes Stakes (Photo by Benoit Photo)

Some horses perform best sprinting; others thrive when running long. Adare Manor clearly falls into the latter category.

A three-year-old daughter of Uncle Mo, Adare Manor lost her first two starts sprinting on the Southern California circuit. But the dark bay filly has been untouchable since stretching out around two turns, dominating a Santa Anita maiden special weight by a dozen lengths before smashing Sunday’s one-mile Las Virgenes S. (G3) at Santa Anita by an even larger margin.

With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the saddle for trainer Bob Baffert, Adare Manor broke smoothly as the 2-5 favorite and soon found herself pressing Gracelund Gray through splits of :22.72 and :46.66. Queen of Thorns and Miss Everything were content to trail the small field.

Down the backstretch and around the final turn, Adare Manor began to assert her superiority, taking command from Gracelund Gray and opening up a four-length lead through six furlongs in 1:11.06. From there, the race was in the bag, as Adare Manor extended her advantage under a hand ride from Velazquez to win by 13 lengths in 1:37.11.

Queen of Thorns held off Miss Everything for the runner-up spot, followed by Gracelund Gray. But none could keep pace with the two-turn ability of Adare Manor.

“Bob (Baffert) told me even when she broke her maiden that’s what she wanted to do. She wanted to go the two turns, get her stride going,” Velazquez told Santa Anita. “Today I engaged her right from the gate and she got a little bit strong at the first turn, so I had to grab her a little bit try to slow her down a bit the first part of the race.

“Once we got to the half-mile pole, I kind of put my hands down on her and her long stride just kept going just like that. I just left her alone and let her get into her rhythm, and she just showed up today. Obviously, she stepped it up from one race to another one and she did it very nicely today.”

Adare Manor did decelerate down the homestretch, running the final furlong in :13.36, but Velazquez noted the Michael Lund Petersen colorbearer could have run faster if asked.

“I looked back a couple of times and I slowed it down, I looked up saw they were pretty far (back) and I backed up thinking, I should save something here although she was breathing fire up front… I definitely wanted to save something.”

The Las Virgenes serves as a Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep race awarding qualification points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis. But since Baffert is suspended by Churchill Downs Inc., Adare Manor was ineligible to earn points toward Churchill’s signature race for sophomore fillies, leaving Queen of Thorns as the highest points earner from the Las Virgenes.

Speaking of points, the stakes get higher in Santa Anita’s remaining Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifiers. The March 6 Santa Ysabel S. (G3) is worth 50-20-10-5 points, while the April 9 Santa Anita Oaks (G2) doubles the value to 100-40-20-10 points.