The Road to the Kentucky Oaks series runs through Santa Anita and Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, though the historically less prestigious of the two events appears to have attracted a far more interesting field.
At Santa Anita, the $200,000 Las Virgenes (G2) over a mile has but five entries, led by Venetian Harbor. The Richard Baltas trainee stretches out after an imposing 10 3/4-length maiden win going 6 1/2 furlongs on Dec. 29.
Bob Baffert has entered two, though neither has proven especially fast yet. Gingham was a distant fourth to Bast in the Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos in December, and followed up with a narrow track-and-distance allowance win on Jan. 3. Stellar Sound, a daughter of Tapit, weakened to fifth behind Bast in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and followed up with a third-place finish in the Desi Arnaz S. at Del Mar last time.
The field is rounded out by California-bred stakes winner Cholula Lips and maiden claiming graduate Go Big Blue Nation.
The $150,000 Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs, over one mile and 40 yards, attracted a field of nine. Embossed, a half to two graded winners and from the family of current Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Maxfield, makes her stakes debut for Godolphin following two earlier wins at the Tampa meet. She'll have her hands full, though, with the likes of Golden Rod (G2) runner-up Motu and Comical, who won the Schuylerville (G3) last summer and narrowly missed to Bast in the Chandelier (G1) later in the fall.
Blame Debbie exits a third in the Demoiselle (G2) behind Lake Avenue, while Turtle Trax could improve off a fifth in the Golden Rod that was contested in the slop. The local stakes hopefuls appear competitive in this spot as well. Two Sixty might be more of a pace factor after clinging to victory in the seven-furlong Gasparilla S., but Sandpiper S. winner Lucrezia and Gasparilla third-place finisher We the Clouds might enjoy the extra distance.
Both the Las Virgenes and Suncoast offer Oaks qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers, and both can be watched and wagered on at TwinSpires.com.