Sidelined since romping in the Oct. 1 Chandelier (G2), Ain’t Easy returns over the same 1 1/16-mile trip at Santa Anita in Sunday’s $100,000 Santa Ysabel (G3). The Phil D’Amato filly will try to retain her perfect record in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep that offers points on the 50-20-10-5 format.
Santa Ysabel (G3) – Race 8 (7 p.m. ET)
Ain’t Easy has made it look easy in both starts so far, inhaling her foes in a Del Mar sprint maiden before readily passing her two-turn test in the Chandelier. The well-bred daughter of Into Mischief earned a free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), but unfortunately missed her chance due to injury. Reportedly undergoing surgery for an ankle chip, Ain’t Easy hopes to re-establish herself as a divisional player in her comeback. John Velazquez picks up the mount on the 124-pound co-highweight in post 2.
Toting the same impost are the respective top two from the Dec. 4 Starlet (G1), Eda and Cairo Memories. Eda extended her winning streak to three that day, staying 1 1/16 miles after taking a pair of sprint stakes in the Anoakia S. and Desi Arnaz S. But Cairo Memories might have been the one to take out of the race from an Oaks perspective. Hitherto campaigned on turf, the Surfer Girl S. winner was trying dirt for the first time, and her rally came up a half-length shy. The Bob Hess pupil gets a rider switch to Mike Smith.
Eda is not eligible for points, since trainer Bob Baffert is suspended by Churchill Downs Inc. The same obviously applies to stablemate Under the Stars, who stretches out following a gritty score in the Jan. 8 Santa Ynez (G2). The Pioneerof the Nile filly, a three-quarter sister to Bodemeister, is tactically drawn on the outside with Flavien Prat.
Baffert’s star filly, Adare Manor, is skipping this spot, but her form is represented by two who’ve chased her in vain this year. Micro Share, a dozen lengths behind her in a Jan. 7 maiden, seeks graded credit for Richard Mandella. Miss Everything, third in the same maiden, was a similarly remote third to Adare Manor in the Feb. 6 Las Virgenes (G3).
Ain’t Easy’s stablemate, Desert Dawn, placed third in the Chandelier, trailed in the Breeders’ Cup, and fared better when fourth in the Starlet. Fortunata Tensio goes turf-to-dirt after a fifth in the Blue Norther S., and Classical Romance takes a big class hike in the wake of maiden claiming and starter allowance wins.
China Doll S. – Race 9 (7:30 p.m. ET)
Sophomore turf fillies take the stage one race later in the $100,000 China Doll S. The trifecta from the Jan. 30 Lady of Shamrock S. – Lucky Girl, troubled favorite Island of Love, and Gold Dragon Queen – renew rivalry over the same mile circuit, while Urban just missed in the Sweet Life (G3) on the downhill course.
Lucky Girl and Gold Dragon Queen are two of Richard Baltas’s trio rounded out by Sterling Crest, fourth in the Surfer Girl and most recently a course-and-distance maiden winner. D’Amato is double-handed with the aforementioned Island of Love, who had won both starts in Italy, and French import Virulente, who’s likely better than her two unplaced U.S. efforts so far. Pammy’s Ready just wired a maiden here, and An Agent Mistake graduated for a $50,000 tag in a turf sprint.