The 2018 portion of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks begins Sunday at Santa Anita Park with the $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes (G2), awarding 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers of the seven-furlong feature.
Nine newly turned sophomore fillies have been entered, including a pair of unbeaten lasses in Artistic Diva and Win the War.
Both are two-for-two, with Artistic Diva breaking her maiden on turf at Del Mar before taking the Anoakia Stakes over Santa Anita’s main track on October 22 to conclude her juvenile campaign. Trained by John Sadler, the bay daughter of Munnings keeps Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza aboard Sunday.
Trainer Mark Casse has tabbed Tyler Gaffalione to ride Win the War in her first start outside of Woodbine. The War Front filly also took her debut on grass before switching to the Canadian track’s synthetic Tapeta for an 11-length romp in the November 19 Glorious Song Stakes in her final race last year.
War Heroine faces winners for the first time in this spot for trainer Peter Miller. The Lonhro filly debuted on November 12 at Del Mar, easily pulling off a 6 3/4-length, wire-to-wire victory against maiden special weight foes. Flavien Prat was aboard that day and retains the mount. Stablemate Allianna is also exiting the maiden ranks after earning her initial win by two lengths at Del Mar on November 26. That was the Flat Out filly’s second start as she ran third in her debut at Santa Anita in late October. Kent Desormeaux takes the reins for the first time in the Santa Ynez.
Yesterday’s News was last seen finishing second in the Starlet Stakes (G1) at Los Alamitos following a pair of turf starts at Del Mar and Santa Anita. Prior to her grass efforts, the Simon Callaghan-trained daughter of New Year’s Day broke her maiden going a mile at Del Mar by 1 1/2 lengths under regular rider Mario Gutierrez.
Dream Tree was the one who ran down Yesterday’s News in the Starlet, and Midnight Bisou was just a nose back of that filly in both her starts. The Bill Spawr pupil made her debut at Santa Anita on October 27 and nearly got the best of Dream Tree at 21-1 odds. The Midnight Lute filly lined back up against her rival in the Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar last out on November 18 but was sent off at 2-1 on that occasion to be second. Mike Smith has the call on Midnight Bisou here.
Rounding out the Santa Ynez field are Steph Being Steph and Streetwithnoname, who finished first and third, respectively in the Golden Gate Debutante most recently on November 24 at Golden Gate Fields; and Just a Smidge, who hasn’t fared too well against stakes competition since breaking her maiden last July at Del Mar.