A field of 10 is entered to run in Saturday’s $200,000, Grade 2 Buena Vista Stakes at Santa Anita Park, a one mile turf test for fillies and mares. Many of them are quite accomplished, including the winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks last summer, Red Lark, who most recently finished fourth in the Grade 1 American Oaks following 2 ½ months off. Mucho Unusual enters the Buena Vista Stakes off wins in the Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel Stakes and the Grade 3 Megahertz Stakes and won the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes over this turf course last summer.
Among the other contenders, Going to Vegas, who finished second in the American Oaks last December, and Sedamar, who finished second in the Megahertz, are both trying to move up a notch into the winner’s circle in this Grade 2 event. Warren’s Showtime was victorious in the Grade 3 Autumn Miss Stakes at a mile over the Santa Anita turf last October and is yet another with a serious chance at success. Nasty enters the race off a win over the course at the one-mile distance in the Lady Shamrock Stakes in December and was close at hand behind Warren’s Showtime in the Autumn Miss two races prior to that, so she adds to the depth of the entrants in this race. Charmaine’s Mia just won the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Stakes at six furlongs and is stretching out to a mile and to two turns for the first time in a stakes. Sloane Garden won a pair of stakes on grass last spring and summer at Golden Gate Fields and returns from four months on the bench, so she could need a race before being competitive against this field. Bohemian Bourbon showed she belongs at the level when a close third in the Grade 2 Royal North Stakes last summer but her recent fifth-place finish (elevated to fourth) in the Las Cienegas following three months off may indicate she’s not yet back in top form. Heathers Grey moves into stakes company off a sixth-place effort in a turf sprint and may be overmatched.
Red Lark has won only two times in 14 career starts, including nine since importing to North America from her native Ireland 13 months ago in January 2020. After moving to turf in her second stateside start and winning, Red Lark lost four races in a row, although she was competitive and never worse than fifth in any of them. Then last summer came a breakout performance in the Del Mar Oaks where she unleashed a visually impressive stretch run and posted the upset at 19.10-1 odds. That effort yielded what was then a career best 109 Equibase Speed Figure. Sent to Keeneland to run in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes Presented by Dixiana, Red Lark ran creditably against some of the top turf fillies in the country, finishing fourth and improving to a 111 figure. Rested 2 ½ months, she returned to race in the American Oaks at a distance of 1 ¼ miles that she had never tried before. Red Lark rallied from ninth of 10 to finish fourth, and she was only beaten a nose for third and less than a length for second. The 104 figure she earned in the American Oaks was pretty good considering the layoff and distance. She shortens up to a mile for the Buena Vista, and it’s worth noting that her opponent Mucho Unusual had success in last year’s edition of the Buena Vista (finishing a close third) trying the came cutback in distance after running well when second in the American Oaks. As such, Red Lark should improve considerably in her second start off a layoff and appears to be the one to beat in this race.
Nasty is a lightly raced, newly turned 4-year-old filly, who has won three of six races on grass to date in her career. The first of the trio was a rousing eight-length win last June in her turf debut at Indiana Grand, and she won another turf race at that track one month later. Following a poor effort in August, Nasty was shipped to California and to the barn of Richard Baltas and she nearly won the Autumn Miss Stakes as she made the lead with an eighth of a mile to go before settling for third. She was beaten a neck by Warren's Showtime and a half-length by Going to Vegas on the wire off a two-month layoff, and earned a career-best 104 figure. After a poor effort in a Del Mar allowance, Nasty rebounded in the one-mile Lady Shamrock Stakes in late December. In that race Nasty duplicated the 104 figure she earned two races earlier while setting a strong pace and holding on gamely over Counterparty Risk, who flattered her when winning the Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes two weeks ago in Florida. The race also produced another next-out winner and a near winner, so it turns out to be a “KEY RACE” from which Nasty has potential to improve upon and win again.
Mucho Unusual has four wins in eight career tries at this one-mile turf trip. The most recent of those came just last month in the Megahertz Stakes, her fifth career win in nine races on a Santa Anita turf course she’s shown a fondness for. Although the Megahertz effort only resulted in an 88 figure, Mucho Unusual has run well enough to be competitive with Red Lark and Nasty if they repeat or improve upon their best efforts. In one of Mucho Unusual’s best efforts, she earned a career-best 110 figure when third, beaten just one length, in last year’s Buena Vista. Mucho Unusual ran similarly well when taking the Rodeo Drive Stakes last September with a 107 figure and then two races later when winning the Robert J. Frankel Stakes with the same 107 figure. Given that strong record of success at the distance and the fact that she’s currently in the best form of her career, Mucho Unusual has every right to succeed in this year’s Buena Vista Stakes.
The rest of the Buena Vista Stakes field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is Bohemian Bourbon (101), Charmaine’s Mia (115 sprinting), Going to Vegas (108), Heathers Grey (105), Sedamar (109), Sloane Garden (102) and Warren’s Showtime (107).
Win Contenders, in preference order: