Bellafina winning the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar - © BENOIT PHOTO

Bellafina winning the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar – © BENOIT PHOTO

In my opinion, the only way to make a meaningful profit playing Saturday’s $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita is to play the exotics straight and hope that your selections are absolutely perfect.

Just five three-year-old fillies have been entered in this one-mile Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep race, and on paper, the four-time graded stakes winner #3 Bellafina towers over the field. She was the top two-year-old filly in California last year, rattling off successive victories in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II), Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), and Chandelier Stakes (gr. I), she recently made a successful three-year-old debut in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita, romping home by 8 ½ lengths.

Bellafina’s terrific tactical speed and proven ability to carry it two turns should give her an insurmountable edge in the Las Virgenes. In terms of BRIS speed figures she’s easily the fastest filly in the field, and while she’s not necessarily immune to defeat—she finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) two starts back, her lone start outside of California—I see no reason to think that she won’t come out on top at a very short price in the Las Virgenes.

But if we’re going to play her on top of the exotics, we can’t afford to spread much underneath or we’ll hamper our return on investment. So for the runner-up spot, I’ll take a stand with #4 Mother Mother, who finished a distant second behind Bellafina in both the Santa Ynez and the Del Mar Debutante. Trained by Bob Baffert, this stoutly-bred daughter of Pioneerof the Nile figures to enjoy the extra distance offered by the Las Virgenes; indeed, her lone start to date around two turns yielded a very close third-place finish in the Starlet Stakes (gr. I) at Los Alamitos, a fine effort that yielded a 91 BRIS speed figure.  Mother Mother will add blinkers for the Las Virgenes and could challenge Bellafina for early supremacy in this small field.

Finally, the logical choice for third place is #2 Enaya Alrabb, who actually finished a neck in front of Mother Mother when second in the Starlet Stakes. This daughter of Uncle Mo will be running for the first time in two months, but she’s been training steadily since the Starlet and will have Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the saddle. Enaya Alrabb is an improving sort who easily defeated #1 Calf Moon Bay in her maiden win two starts back; notably, Calf Moon Bay has come back to win two straight races over her own and could be considered the most likely to round out the superfecta.

So let’s play them all in that order for the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta:

$10 exacta: 3 with 4
$10 trifecta: 3 with 4 with 2
$10 superfecta: 3 with 4 with 2 with 1

Good luck!