Betting the Exacta in the Buena Vista Stakes

February 21st, 2019

From claim to fame—that’s been the story for #9 Vasilika, who will start as the favorite in Saturday’s $200,000 Buena Vista Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.

Claimed by Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer just over one year ago, the five-year-old daughter of Skipshot has been almost unstoppable since then. All told, she’s won 11 of her last 13 starts, a streak that includes major victories in the John C. Mabee Stakes (gr. III), Rodeo Drive Stakes (gr. I), Goldikova Stakes (gr. II), and Megahertz Stakes (gr. III).

Vasilika has been particularly effective at Santa Anita (where she boasts eight wins and a second from nine starts), and although she prefers to rally from off the pace, the one-mile distance of the Buena Vista shouldn’t be too short—two of her graded stakes wins have come going a mile, including the Megahertz just last month. With four tried-and-true speed horses in this field, there should also be plenty of pace to set up her late run.

For all these reasons, Vasilika is a deserving favorite in the Buena Vista, and yet, I’m tempted to take a shot against her with #8 Elysea’s World. Vasilika’s lone defeat in her last ten starts came at the hands of three East Coast shippers in the Matriarch Stakes (gr. I) in December, Elysea’s World likewise looms as a formidable Easterner with a chance to give Vasilika a run for the money.

Formerly trained by Chad Brown, but now under the care of Richard Baltas, Elysea’s World will be running in California for the first time since she finished a close second in a slow-paced renewal of Santa Anita’s Robert J. Frankel Stakes (gr. III) in December 2017. At the time, Elysea's World was coming to the end of a nine-race losing streak that spanned the duration of 2017, but her record as of late has been considerably better—in 2018, she won the Suwannee River Stakes (gr. III), Matchmaker Stakes (gr. III), and Violet Stakes (gr. III) with sharp rallies from off the pace.

I’m willing to forgive Elysea’s World’s last-out defeat over a “good” turf course in the E. P. Taylor Stakes (gr. I) at Woodbine, since her record suggests that she doesn’t care for rain-soaked courses. Her otherwise solid East Coast form should translate well to Santa Anita, where she should encounter a much faster early pace to enhance her late run. Throw in the services of Santa Anita’s leading jockey Joel Rosario, and I think we have a mare with the potential to post a mild upset.

Since I believe Vasilika and Elysea's World are a cut above their eight rivals, I’ll box them in a large exacta:

$15 exacta: 8,9 with 8,9 ($30)

Good luck!