Santa Anita Oaks Recap: Faiza extends her unbeaten streak

The star of the show on Santa Anita’s Saturday undercard was undoubtedly the brilliant filly Faiza, who extended her unbeaten streak to five with a romping victory in the G2 Santa Anita Oaks. Offlee Naughty made a belated stakes breakthrough at the age of five when coming late to win the G2 Charles Whittingham, while Elm Drive made the most of the downgraded Monrovia coming off the turf, returning to form after more than six months on the sidelines.

Santa Anita Oaks (G2, $400,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo fillies)

Faiza’s five-star display

With her most impressive performance so far, Faiza extended her unbeaten record to five with a demolition job in the Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday, cruising away from And Tell Me Nolies and Window Shopping to confirm her status as California’s leading three-year-old filly.

The outcome was never really in doubt after the 4-5 favourite had surged into a share of the lead under Flavien Prat approaching the final turn. She took over at the top of the lane and simply bounded away from her rivals, winning dialled down by six and a half lengths, with a half-length separating the place and show horses.

“She’s just starting to get good,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “My plan is to keep her undefeated.”

In a normal year, Faiza might be a warm favourite for the Kentucky Oaks, but owing to Baffert’s suspension from Churchill Downs that is not on the agenda, and her next target could be the G2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on May 19. Saturday’s runner-up And Tell Me Nolies has sufficient qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks and will take her chance on the first Friday in May.

Santa Anita Oaks Payouts

HorseWinPlaceShow
1. Faiza3.602.402.10
2. And Tell Me Nolies4.002.80
3. Window Shopping3.20

Winning time: 1m 43.27s

Santa Anita Oaks Race Video

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Charles Whittingham Stakes, G2, $200,000, 1m 2f turf, 4yo+

Naughty shows his good side

There was an upset – and a nasty incident – in the Charles Whittingham, which provided the stage for 11-1 outsider Offlee Naughty to make his stakes breakthrough when comfortably accounting for the pace-setting pair Dicey Mo Chara and Opry.

Offlee Naughty, trained by Michael McCarthy and making his first start for four months, came from last to first to take control inside the final sixteenth and win cleverly by a length from Dicey Mo Chara, who had three-quarters of a length in hand of Opry; the disappointing favourite Gold Phoenix was the same margin back in fourth.

The race was marred by the fall of Midnight Jostar, who lost his footing at the top of the stretch and came down. Both horse and jockey Kent Desormeaux were unhurt.

“He is showing a lot of talent but still learning the job,” said winning jockey John Velazquez. “He responded well when I pulled him out and came running.”

This was just the second stakes start for Offlee Naughty, who normally works the allowance beat. His record now reads four-for-16, and after this, he could have a bigger part to play in the shallow California turf route division.

Charles Whittingham Stakes Payouts

HorseWinPlaceShow
1. Offlee Naughty25.209.004.80
2. Dicey Mo Chara6.404.00
3. Opry4.00

Winning time: 2m 02.45s

Charles Whittingham Stakes Race Video

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Monrovia Stakes, ungraded, $200,000, 6 1/2f dirt, 4yo+ females

Drive thrives on surface switch

Following the fall of Midnight Jostar in the Charles Whittingham, the Monrovia was downgraded and taken off the turf, always a very unsatisfactory move and one that resulted in four scratches – including the morning-line favourite – to leave a field of seven.

The beneficiary of the switch was 7-1 chance Elm Drive, who was scheduled to make her first start on the lawn but appreciated her usual diet of dirt, coming out best in a close finish with Big Summer and the rallying Kirstenbosch, showing a lot of speed and turning back all challenges under Ramon Vazquez to win by three-quarters of a length and a neck. The favoured Awake At Midnyte was fourth.

“She was fresh and ready and is a Graded-stakes winner on dirt, so that certainly helped,” said trainer Phil D’Amato.

Elm Drive was certainly fresh, coming off a six-and-a-half-month layoff after losing her form last summer. A G2 winner at Del Mar as a juvenile, she is now four-for-nine and is likely to stick to the main track for the foreseeable future.

Monrovia Stakes Payouts

HorseWinPlaceShow
1. Elm Drive17.208.806.40
2. Big Summer5.803.40
3. Kirstenbosch4.20

Winning time: 1m 15.56s

Monrovia Stakes Race Video

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