Eden's Moon was an easy winner of Saturday's $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park, but the talented bay miss had to survive an objection lodged by runner-up Reneesgotzip's trainer before she could give owner Kaleem Shah his first Grade 1 victory.
Jockey Martin Garcia hustled Eden's Moon to the front when the gates opened, and the Malibu Moon filly had taken command by the time the field entered the first turn. Reneesgotzip, meanwhile, blew the turn before angling back in under Corey Nakatani and moving up to dog the hoofsteps of Eden's Moon through splits of :46 2/5, 1:10 2/5 and 1:22 2/5.
The pair hooked up in the lane, but a bumping incident nearing the eighth-pole saw Grade 2 Santa Ynez winner Reneesgotzip falter and back up while Eden's Moon kept motoring to be 3 1/4 lengths clear on the wire.
"She's a really good filly," Garcia said. "Even though they put pressure on her right out of the gate, she relaxed for me. The seven (Reneesgotzip) pressed me real hard going to the far turn and she bumped my filly's hind end which turned her a little sideways and she switched leads."
Before the fillies had returned to the winner's circle, Reneesgotzip's trainer, Peter Miller, had already lodged an objection with the stewards. The officials deliberated before declaring that Reneesgotzip was responsible for the contact and made the race official.
"I was going two to his one at that point, and Martin shifted out, and we brushed a little bit, and when he hit his filly, he hit my horse twice in the face with the whip," Nakatani explained the incident in the stretch. "You can see she shakes her head twice when he hit her. That was the difference between winning and losing. At that point, it was a two-horse race.
"You can see where she shifts out and Martin hits my horse across the face with the whip twice. My filly just popped her head up."
"It's typical, typical, just look at the (Grade 1) Santa Anita Handicap last year. Same story," a disgruntled Miller stated on the stewards' decision. "She got hit with the whip in the face."
Eden's Moon, the 5-2 second pick, ran a mile on the fast main track in 1:35 1/5 to pay $7, $3.60 and $3.40. Reneesgotzip was the 6-5 favorite but suffered her first loss in this spot. She had 2 3/4 lengths to spare on third-placer Open Water, who in turn was a half-length up on Willa B Awesome. Your Special Day, Made to Love Her, Killer Graces and Charm the Maker completed the order under the wire.
"We'll point her toward the (Grade 1) Santa Anita Oaks (going 1 1/16 miles on March 31)," Miller said of Reneesgotzip. "I don't see any reason why not. She got hit. It was obvious she got hit over the nose with the whip."
Eden's Moon ran second to Reneesgotzip in the pair's racing debut on December 18 at Hollywood Park, but returned to romp by 11 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita on January 8. The bay miss was scheduled to make her stakes bow in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel just 20 days later, but "got sick" according to trainer Bob Baffert and was scratched out of that race, which was captured by Willa B Awesome. She returned here to move her record to 3-2-1-0 and has now banked $192,600 in lifetime earnings.
"I was hoping we'd be on the lead, get her out there and get her into a groove. I felt we could handle the distance," Baffert said. "When Reneesgotzip went wide on the (first) turn, she eased off of us, so that was good.
"She's getting better and better at a distance. Distance is not a problem for her. I don't know if (the Santa Anita Oaks) will be next. We'll see how she comes out of this and keep her happy. We want to take her to the (Grade 1) Kentucky Oaks (on May 4 at Churchill Downs), so that's what we're pointing for."
Bred in Florida by Bridlewood Farm, Eden's Moon was a $110,000 RNA at Fasig-Tipton Florida before selling for $390,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training. She is out of the winning Giant's Causeway mare Eden's Causeway, who is herself a daughter of the Northfields mare North of Eden.
North of Eden wasn't able to win on track from seven starts, but was quite successful in the breeding shed. Among her progeny are 1994 champion turf horse Paradise Creek, who captured such Grade 1 races as the Arlington Million, Washington D.C. International Stakes and Manhattan Stakes; fellow Manhattan winner and 2001 Breeders' Cup Mile second Forbidden Apple; Grade 1 scorer Wild Event; and Grade 2-placed stakes victor I'm Very Irish. All four of those would go on to be sires while Paradise Creek's full sister, Paradise River, would foal multiple highweight David Junior.
North of Eden is herself a half-sibling to 1987 champion turf horse and top sire Theatrical as well as Japanese Grade 1 winner Taiki Blizzard.