Santa Anita Park holds the distinction of hosting the first points races of 2018 for both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1) this weekend. The Road to the Kentucky Derby kicks off in the Sham Stakes (G3) on Saturday, while the Road to the Kentucky Oaks begins Sunday in the $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes (G2).
The Santa Ynez attracted a field of nine sophomore fillies to go seven furlongs over Santa Anita’s dirt. It appears to be a well-matched group, with contenders including Yesterday’s News, Artistic Diva, Win the War, Midnight Bisou and War Heroine.
Yesterday’s News brings only one win into the Santa Ynez, breaking her maiden by 1 1/2 lengths last September at Del Mar for trainer Simon Callaghan. The New Year’s Day filly tried turf in her next pair of starts, including a second against allowance/optional claiming rivals at Del Mar on November 5, before closing out her juvenile campaign with a runner-up effort in the Starlet Stakes (G1) at Los Alamitos.
The well-traveled miss tries Santa Anita’s main track for the first time here under regular rider Mario Gutierrez.
The John Sadler-trained Artistic Diva is unbeaten from two career starts and faces graded company with jockey Victor Espinoza retaining the mount. The duo first teamed for a maiden turf win at Del Mar in late August before trying Santa Anita’s dirt to wire the Anoakia Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths on October 22. The Munnings sophomore lass easily defeated two of her Santa Ynez rivals in that six-furlong contest and will try to make it three in a row Sunday.
Like Artistic Diva, Win the War is perfect from two races in her career. Listed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Santa Ynez, the Mark Casse-conditioned filly eked out a neck score to take her maiden debut over Woodbine’s turf and then produced an 11-length romp of the Glorious Song Stakes on that venue’s synthetic Tapeta main track. The bay War Front filly gets a jockey switch from Patrick Husbands to Tyler Gaffalione for Sunday’s Santa Ynez.
Midnight Bisou is also two-for-two thus far, just not in wins. The Bill Spawr pupil has missed by a nose to be second in both her career efforts, a maiden at Santa Anita in October and Del Mar’s Desi Arnaz Stakes on November 18. The dark bay daughter of Midnight Lute earned a 92 BRIS Speed rating for that latter run and gets her third jockey from as many starts when Mike Smith takes the reins in this spot.
War Heroine just made her racing bow on November 12 at Del Mar, easily grabbing command of the 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight and drawing off for a geared-down 6 3/4-length victory. The Lonhro filly, trained by Peter Miller, keeps Flavien Prat in the irons for her first outing against winners.
Steph Being Steph parlayed a runner-up effort in the Anoakia behind Artistic Diva into a win last out in the Golden Gate Debutante on Golden Gate Fields’ synthetic Tapeta. The Brian Koriner-trained daughter of Majestic Warrior had fellow Santa Ynez runner and maiden-claiming victress Streetwithnoname behind in third. Stewart Elliott reclaims the ride on Steph Being Steph while Joe Talamo reunites with Streetwithnoname.
Completing the Santa Ynez field are maiden winner Allianna and Just a Smidge, who was third in the Anoakia prior to finishing last of 12 in the grassy Jimmy Durante Stakes (G3).