With two sparkling wins from three starts, Eden’s Moon has become one of the leading contenders – along with unbeaten stablemate Princess Arabella and Grace Hall – for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky Derby’s female counterpart, on May 4. Kaleem Shah’s bay filly will be expected to solidify her status among five 3-year-old fillies in the Santa Anita Oaks.
Among those who will attempt to keep up with Eden’s Moon in the Oaks is the Lanni Family Trust’s Reneesgotzip, whose budding career has largely shadowed that of her rival for trainer Peter Miller.
The pair debuted in a maiden race at six furlongs over Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track on Dec. 18. At odds of 8-1, Reneesgotzip led every step of the way while defeating 2-5 favorite Eden’s Moon by 2 ¼ lengths. “Second best” was the Daily Racing Form chart’s terse description of the latter’s effort.
Reneesgotzip moved on to Santa Anita’s Grade II Santa Ynez Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs. She romped home by 7 ¾ lengths while covering the distance in 1:15 1/5 on Jan. 15. “She had shown a lot of ability, but not this kind of ability,” Miller exclaimed afterward. In the meantime, Eden’s Moon was stretched out to one mile on Jan. 8 when she cruised to an 11 ½-length victory while breaking her maiden in 1:36 3/5.
Reneesgotzip was 6-5 and Eden’s Moon was 5-2, when they clashed for a second time in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on March 3, and this time it was Baffert’s filly who showed the way. Eden’s Moon defeated her nemesis by 3 ¼ lengths in 1:35 1/5. Prior to that, she had broken her maiden going a mile by 11 ½ lengths on Jan. 8, getting the distance in 1:36.60. She’s clearly a different horse around two turns.
Purchased for $390,000 last spring, Eden’s Moon will take earnings of $192,600 into the Oaks with regular rider Martin Garcia in the saddle. Reneesgotzip will be ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez. He replaces Corey Nakatani, who will be riding in Dubai. Reneesgotzip has earned $167,000 in her three races.
The most experienced runner in the field is Willa B Awesome, an earner of $248,896 from a 3-3-2 record in 11 starts. The California-bred daughter of Awesome Gambler won the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes by 3 ½ lengths at the Oaks distance of 1 1/16 miles. But she couldn’t match strides with either Eden’s Moon or Reneesgotzip when fourth in the Las Virgenes. Martin Pedroza rides the chestnut filly trained by Walther Solis for a partnership.
The complete field for the Santa Anita Oaks, with jockeys in post position order (each starter carries 122 pounds): Eden’s Moon, Martin Garcia; Reneesgotzip, Garrett Gomez; Willa B Awesome, Martin Pedroza; Bella’s Fantasy, Mike Smith, and Conjure the Spirit, Joel Rosario.
The most accomplished youngster among the 13 entrants in the Echo Eddie is trainer Gary Sherlock’s Passing Game, who will carry high weight of 122 pounds with Kevin Krigger aboard. Owned by co-breeders Charles Bernhardt and Carol Chambers, the Game Plan colt has earned $93,100 from a 2-0-2 record in five starts. A winner of the Golden Nugget Stakes at Golden Gate last November, Passing Game came up a neck short when a fast closing third in Santa Anita’s Baffle Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on turf on Feb. 26.
Pulpit’s Express, trained by Mike Mitchell for Dutton Stables and Tom Kessler, will cut back in distance from 1 1/16 miles while aiming for his third straight victory. Joel Rosario rides the gelded son of Lucky Pulpit who has won his last two starts by a combined 11 ¾ lengths.
Scott McKeever’s The Black will seek his third straight victory while sprinting over Santa Anita’s main track. Gomez will be atop the Cherokee Run colt who most recently scored by two lengths in a starter allowance event for trainer Doug O’Neill while negotiating 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15 4/5.
Three Vases, who missed by a head when making his debut in last summer’s Graduation Stakes at Del Mar, came back to break his maiden at Santa Anita for trainer Robertino Diodoro on Jan. 7. The In Excess colt, owned by Simon Hudy, most recently ran second to PointsOffthebench while the winner sizzled 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14. Joe Talamo will be in the irons.
The complete field for the Echo Eddie Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: La Mano Nera, Mario Gutierrez, 118; Real Conundrum, Pedroza, 118; G’night, Smith, 118; Pulpit’s Express, Rosario, 116; Bench Light, Jose Valdivia Jr., 116; Exotic Slew, Alonso Quinonez, 118; Passing Game, Kevin Krigger, 122; Coach Bob, Eswan Flores, 120; Three Vases, Joseph Talamo, 118; A Toast to You, David Flores, 118; Derby Gold, Garcia, 116; Already There, Edwin Maldonado, 116, and The Black, Gomez, 116.
Multiple stakes-winner Heleonor Rugby, who will break from the rail under jockey Edwin Maldonado, is the most advanced of the baker’s dozen entered in the Evening Jewel. With earnings of $208,906 from a 3-2-2 record in eight races, the $27,000 sales purchase won both the CTBA and Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar last summer. She also ran third in the Grade III Sorrento Stakes. The daughter of Tribal Rule, trained by A.C. Avila for Jessica Coudelaria, is the field’s co-high weight at 122 pounds along with Starlight Magic.
Trained by Mark Glatt for Cory Wagner, Starlight Magic finished a troubled fourth behind Heleonor Rugby in the Generous Portion before going on to break her maiden before capturing the $100,000 California Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita in her last start on Oct. 29. She has been working swiftly for her return. Mike Smith has the riding assignment aboard the $75,000 sales purchase who has won $96,780 from two wins in four starts.
The complete field for the Evening Jewel Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Heleonor Rugby, Maldonado, 122; Starry Skies, Gomez, 118; River Kiss, Daniel Vergara, 118; Vicki Victoria, Talamo, 120; Babyneedsnewshoes, Krigger, 116; Starlight Magic, Smith, 122; Our Heat, Martin Pedroza, 118; Briteness, Rosario, 118, Warren’s Amber, Eswan Flores, 116; Belloma, Quinonez, 120; Caribaya Queen, David Flores, 120; Queen of the Hill, Hector Berrios, 116, and Briteyednbushytail, Frederic Lenclud, 116.