The Grade 2, $200,000 Buena Vista Stakes at Santa Anita Park drew a full field of fillies and mares running one mile on the turf. In terms of recent success at the top level, Lady Prancealot leads the field as she won the Grade 1 American Oaks at the end of December in her most recent start. Mucho Unusual was second in the American Oaks, beaten a half-length, and she will attempt to turn the tables on her rival. Carressa won the Grade 3 Megahertz Stakes at this mile turf trip last month, a race in which Super Patriot was second, La Sardane third, Keeper Ofthe Stars sixth, and Brill seventh after setting the pace for the first six furlongs. Jolie Olimpica also enters the Buena Vista as a Grade 3 winner, having won the Las Cienegas Stakes last month at the distance of 5 1/2 furlongs. Tiny Tina ran well when second in the Grade 3 Astra Stakes on this course last month and, although she cuts back from that 1 ½-mile distance to a mile, she has won three of six times at this distance on turf. Muchly makes her U.S. debut and returns off a layoff since last October, while Sold It steps up off a runner-up effort in an allowance race. Meal Ticket enters the race off a 4 ½-month layoff, having finished second in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes last April, but she has finished better than fifth just once in six races since then and that was an allowance victory.
Jolie Olimpica was undefeated in three starts in her native Brazil last year, including a win in the Group 1 Gran Prix Jockey Club Brasileiro versus males at a mile on turf. She beat 13 other horses in that field while drawing off by six lengths and earned a 109 Equibase Speed Figure. Sent to the U.S. after that win last June, Jolie Olimpica found herself in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, who took his time with the filly over the next six months. Making her U.S. debut on Jan. 11 in the Las Cienegas Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs, Jolie Olimpica bobbled at the start, moved up quickly to stalk the pacesetter, then took over and won by 1 ¼ lengths in “ridden out” fashion with gas left in the tank, improving to a career-best 111 figure. Having already won a stakes race at a mile, there’s no question Jolie Olimpica can handle the trip. She’s very likely to improve in her second race after seven months off, so she should be tough to beat in this year’s Buena Vista Stakes.
Carressa, like Jolie Olimpica, is a 4-year-old with four “A” efforts in her last four races. Stretched out to a mile (on dirt) for the first time last August, Carressa won by 4 1/4 lengths and then two races later won by eight lengths with a strong 106 Equibase Speed Figure. She bettered that figure in her first turf start last month, at this mile trip, winning the Megahertz Stakes while earning a 107 figure. In winning that race, Carressa beat Super Patriot, La Sardane, Brill, and Keeper Ofthe Stars, none of which appear capable of turning the tables on this filly. Considering Carressa has improvement potential in her second career turf start, similar to the logical improvement expected of Jolie Olimpica, these two fillies may provide us with an epic battle in the final stages of this race.
Lady Prancealot won the American Oaks at the end of September, earning the same 110 speed figure as she did two months earlier when winning the Grade 3 Pin Oak Valley View Stakes at Keeneland. However, it must be noted both races were for 3-year-olds only, and in the Buena Vista, Lady Prancealot is facing older horses for the first time. On the other hand, she’s now a 4-year-old, the same as Jolie Olimpica, Carressa, and five of the other horses entered in this race. Jockey Joe Bravo rode Lady Prancealot for the first time in the Valley View, then again in the American Oaks, and has the mount in the Buena Vista. If there is a knock on Lady Prancealot — other than it being very likely she will be the public betting choice and offer less value for win bets than Jolie Olimpica or Carressa — it is that Lady Prancealot won the American Oaks at the much longer distance of 1 ¼ miles, and her record at this one-mile trip is one win and three seconds in six races, suggesting this may not be her best distance.
Mucho Unusual rounds out a quartet of horses that, combined, have the bulk of the probability to win. In the American Oaks, Mucho Unusual rallied from fourth on the turn to make the lead by a head with an eighth of a mile to go before being outfinished by Lady Prancealot and coming up a half-length short. She did win the San Clemente Stakes at this mile turf trip last July under Joel Rosario, who did not ride her in her next three starts but was in the saddle in the American Oaks and has the return call here, appearing to choose her over Super Patriot, who he rode to a runner-up effort in the Megahertz. Considering Mucho Unusual earned a 109 figure in the American Oaks and has won a race at this Grade 2 level and distance, she must be considered as a win contender as well.
The rest of the Buena Vista field (with best Equibase Speed Figure in similar races): Brill (101), Keeper Ofthe Stars (116), La Sardane (FR) (105), Meal Ticket (98), Muchly (GB) (100), Sold It (99), Super Patriot (106) and Tiny Tina (111).
Win contenders, in preference order: