We step off of the derby trail this week and head west to Santa Anita for the G2 Buena Vista Stakes. The Buena Vista is a $200,000 filly and mare turf event that will be contested at one-mile around 2 turns. The field of 10 ladies will be headlined by 8-5 morning line favorite Vasilika, who is coming off of a victorious 2019 debut in the G3 Megahertz stakes here at Santa Anita.
The Santa Anita turf course has been reasonably friendly to closers this meet with only 19% wire to wire winners in 43 tries. Vasilika is all too familiar with this trend as she has come from off the pace 7 times to win at this track, including 3 graded stake victories. So who will be the sacrificial lamb that will be on the engine?
The top early speed figures belong to 6-1 morning line Fahan Mura. This mare has one strategy: get the lead and HODL (hold on for dear life). She last ran on January 26th at Gulfstream over a yielding surface where she shot to the front in a G1 affair and faded badly, beaten 33 lengths. Behind her will be the Richard Baltas longshot English Dancer who looks like she wants the front but I am not impressed by her recent early speed figures. Amandine, trained by Jeff Mullins and ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, looks totally the opposite where her early speed figures are solid but she has not been able to see the early lead.
Another of trainer Baltas’ trio of starters, Ms Bad Behavior, is another who posts respectable early speed numbers, as does the rail mare, Take These Chains. Ms Bad Behavior, with Mike Smith up, loves the front, but with Fahan Mura to chase, I don’t believe she has a shot. This is a lot of early speed to deal with and I expect a hot pace. The question is, if this hot pace comes to fruition, can Vasilika be beaten?
The short answer is…No. I cannot take a stand against a mare who is 10 for her last 12, all in southern California, who has beaten the top contenders in this field time and time again with a running style that is perfect for the conditions. I expect her to go off at less than even money, which does not offer me value. In order to find value, I landed on a solid pick for 2nd, which will fill out our exacta with Vasilika on top.
The horse I landed on to run 2nd behind Vasilika is 12-1 morning line Zaffinah. Zaffinah has recently come in to her own with a return to graded stakes and a 3rd place finish against the top contenders on this group, only 1.5 lengths behind Vasilika. She runs from a classic stalking spot and I hope she sits back a little further as the speed duel develops. I believe Zaffinah will have the lead in the stretch and be run down by Vasilika in the final 1/16th.
Let’s take a Vasilika/Zaffinah exacta and hope for a $15 exacta payout.