Trainer Peter Miller appears to be holding a pair of aces at 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita Park's hillside turf course as Belvoir Bay and Painting Corners head a field of nine older distaffers in Saturday's Grade III, $100,000 Las Cienegas Stakes.
Throw in John Sadler's lightning quick Selcourt, a multiple graded stakes winner who tries turf for the first time and Glen Hill Farm's homebred Compelled, and the Las Cienegas has the look of a deep and competitive affair.
With five wins from eight tries down the unique hillside layout, Belvoir Bay will likely be in a stalking position early, while speedy Painting Corners, a winner of three of seven hillside assignments, figures to be winging early in search of a gate to wire score.
Trained by Tom Proctor, Compelled, who returns to Santa Anita following a desperate nose defeat over soft turf in an ungraded six furlong stakes at Laurel Park on Sept. 22, comes into the race fresh and adds considerable depth to the Las Cienegas lineup.
||Drayden Van Dyke
||Belvoir Bay (GB)
||Miss Southern Miss
||Last Promise Kept
A four-time graded stakes winner over the hillside turf, this 6-year-old English-bred mare has been on the road in her last two starts, finishing a close fifth in a Grade I, six furlong turf stakes at Woodbine June 30 and second, beaten three quarters of a length as the 5-2 favorite, in a Grade III stakes at Keeneland going 5 ½ furlongs on turf Oct. 12.
Freshened and reunited with Flavien Prat, Belvoir Bay, who is 22-9-4-2 overall, with earnings of $582,167, is strictly the horse to beat on Saturday.
Owner: Team Valor International & Gary Barber | Trainer: Peter Miller
Second, beaten 1 ¾ lengths after opening up through white-hot splits of 20.80, 42.20 and 1:05.80 in the Grade III Senator Ken Maddy Stakes down the hill Nov. 3, this 5-year-old Florida-bred mare by Pleasant Strike will be handled on Saturday by Joel Rosario, who will no doubt try to ration her considerable early speed.
Never worse than third in seven hillside tries, Painting Corners appears on the improve for Miller as she makes only her second graded stakes appearance.
Owner: Altimira Racing Stable & Slam Dunk Racing | Trainer: Peter Miller
In terms of raw talent, this lightly raced 5-year-old Tiz Wonderful mare rates right at the top of the Las Cienegas heap. A 9 ¼ length first out maiden winner going six furlongs at age three on Feb. 12, 2017, physical issues have limited her afternoon appearances to just seven.
A three time stakes winner last year (two of them graded, the Grade III Las Flores on Feb. 18 and the Grade II Santa Monica on March 24) she was then idle prior to running a distant 12th in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs Nov. 3.
Out of the Open Forum mare Azure Spring, Selcourt was bred in Kentucky by her part owner, Keith Abrahams and has sprinted on dirt in all of her previous starts. Brilliantly fast on the main track, look for her to shoot to the early lead Saturday under regular rider Tyler Baze.
Owner: Keith Abrahams, Medallion Racing & Sandra Lazaruk | Trainer: John Sadler
Back from Maryland following a heartbreak defeat in September, Compelled, a 5-year-old Florida-bred daughter of War Front, makes her second hillside start on Saturday. In her only try over the course, she ran a solid third, beaten three lengths by Belvoir Bay, in the Grade II Monrovia three starts back on May 28.
Lightly raced, freshened and reunited with Drayden Van Dyke, Compelled looms a very plausible upsetter on Saturday.
Owner: Glen Hill Farm | Trainer: Tom Proctor