The prep races on the road to the Kentucky Derby are not the only horse races drawing interest ahead of the first Saturday in May. No, the fine fillies are more than just attractive — they are talented and tireless in their pursuit of a spot in the 2022 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs.
The final minor Kentucky Oaks prep races conclude with Sunday’s Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita, awarding 10 points to the winner towards qualifying for the season’s biggest race for 3-year-olds Feb. 6.
The $200,000 Las Virgenes (G3) is Race 3 on Sunday, Feb. 6, at Santa Anita, and drew just five fillies, led by controversial trainer Bob Baffert‘s pair of betting favorites, Adare Manor (6-5) and Eda (9-5). Those two will be a popular exacta box bet, but note that Adare Manor and Eda are not eligible for Kentucky Oaks points due to Churchill Downs’ ban of the Hall of Fame trainer.
Post time for the Las Virgenes is 4:34 p.m. EST, or 1:34 p.m. Pacific time.
- Miss Everything (12-1)
- Gracelund Gray (8-1)
- Adare Manor (6-5)
- Queen of Thorns (5-1)
- Eda (9-5)
2022 Las Virgenes leading contenders
Adare Manor looms at a short price following a rousing 12-length win a month ago over this track going 1 mile. Her 105 Equibase Speed Figure in that race was eye-opening and the best in this field. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez rides her again, and he’s second in the current meet jockey standings with 22 wins and a 26% win rate with 56% in-the-money finishes. That’s second behind leading jockey Flavien Prat, who has 36 wins, a 31% win rate and rides Queen of Thorns in her second start off a dominant 8-length win on New Year’s Day sprinting six furlongs.
Eda has won twice at Santa Anita and enters with three straight wins and two with Flavien Prat aboard. This time, Juan Hernandez rides her, as he did when winning the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes by a half-length while dueling on the front end at Los Alamitos on Dec. 4. Eda now has four wins and $370,000 in earnings — both tops in the field.
Following the Las Virgenes is the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in race 8 at 7:12 EST, drawing a short field of five runners. That race is one of three Kentucky Derby prep races at Santa Anita. It’s also one of the last minor Derby preps ahead of the 16 Championship Series races that will award 50 and 100 points to the race winners and determine the field for the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
Notable Las Virgenes champions
The Las Virgenes was inaugurated in 1983. The event has produced some outstanding fillies that have become champions both in their sophomore year and even later to become Breeders’ Cup champions.
These include Goodbye Halo, who won the then Grade I Las Virgenes in 1988. She went on to win three Grade 1s that year, including the Kentucky Oaks, before placing in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Lite Light emerged in 1991 to win the Las Virgenes and went on to win three more Grade 1 races, including the Santa Anita Oaks and Kentucky Oaks.
Serena’s Song was one of the outstanding fillies, with 18 career wins. She won the Las Virgenes in 1995 on her way to defeating the colts in the Jim Beam, Haskell Invitational and unplaced in the Kentucky Derby to capture US Champion 3-Year-Old Filly honors. She won five more races in 1996 and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Surfside won the 2000 Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on her way to also capturing US Champion 3-Year-Old Filly honors. The 2007 Las Virgenes winner was Rags to Riches, one of the great names in horse racing. Unfortunately, her career was cut short by a leg injury, but not before she became a US Classic winner when she became just the third filly to win the Belmont Stakes. That followed wins in the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks.
Lastly, the beautiful and brilliant Beholder won 18 races with four runner-up finishes in 26 starts, ending with a sensational stretch duel win over undefeated Songbird in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita (which I saw in person live and bet her to win!). Beholder won the 2013 Las Virgenes, Santa Anita Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff while finishing second in the Kentucky Oaks. As an older horse, she was a two-time winner of the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes and beat the boys in the 2015 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
There are some great champions in the Las Virgenes, which has lost its prestige among the better early Kentucky Oaks prep races. The Grade I race was downgraded to Grade II in 2016 and in 2021 to Grade III.