Champion Cholula Lips Seeks First Graded Win
Photo Copyright Eclipse Sportswire
By Emily Shields for TVG
Cholula Lips, who was recently crowned as California’s Champion Two Year Old Female, will make her second start of 2020 in the $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. The one-mile contest drew five sophomore fillies en route to the $1,250,000 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) in May.
Terry Lovingier and Amanda Navarro’s Cholula Lips, by Empire Way, broke her maiden first out over this track sprinting on May 24 last year. She went on to place in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs and the Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar before winning the Soviet Problem at Los Alamitos. That was by three lengths and over the Las Virgenes distance of a mile. Abel Cedillo will climb aboard the Mike Harrington-trainee for the first time.
She will face two runners from the Bob Baffert barn. Jane Wiltz and Sarah Kelly’s Gingham was a $420,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase by Quality Road out of the Pulpit mare Chapel. She finished second in three consecutive starts before breaking her maiden in her fourth try over this same trip. She then jumped from maiden company in October to the Grade 1 Starlet in December, where Gingham ran fourth behind stablemate Bast. She has since come back to add an allowance win over this trip on January 3.
Stellar Sound is the other Baffert-trainee. The Tapit daughter hails from the royal family of horses like George Vancouver, Saarland, and is a half-sister to Grade 1 placed Luminance. She broke her maiden first out at Del Mar in August, then ran fifth in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) there before a break until November, when she ran third in the Desi Arnaz. This is her first start beyond seven furlongs, and first start outside Del Mar. Mike Smith will ride.
Go Big Blue Nation has the rail. She was claimed for $75,000 out of her last start, a maiden-breaking win at Santa Anita at the $75,000 level. The daughter of Animal Kingdom is now trained by Michael McCarthy and will have Rafael Bejarano up for this.
Venetian Harbor rounds out the field. The Munnings daughter was a stunning 10 ¾ length maiden winner on December 29 over this course at six and a half furlongs. Flavien Prat will climb aboard the Richard Baltas trainee, who has been favored in both her starts to date.
The Las Virgenes is one of two official Kentucky Oaks prep races worth points this weekend. All of the Kentucky Oaks prep races can be watched and wagered on with TVG.
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February Stakes on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse is First Automatic Qualifier for 2020 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic
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