Las Virgenes: Romance Is Diane just one threat
ARCADIA, Calif. -- Romance Is Diane is on a three-race winning streak, with the most recent win coming in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes in December. She should be a top contender for Saturday's $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita, but the race is full of other prominent fillies.
Baroness Thatcher won the Gradeo3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on Jan.o6, a day before Rags to Riches impressively beat maidens. Jump On In won the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes on Jan. 15. Slew o' Platinum won the minor Sun Devil Stakes at Turf Paradise on Jan. 20.
The field features four other stakes winners from 2006 - Cash Included, who won the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Breeders' Cup in September; Quick Little Miss, the winner of the Moccasin; Runway Rosie, who won the Sharp Cat; and Swiss Diva, the winner of the California Breeders' Champion.
The presence of those fillies has left trainer Mike Mitchell, who starts Romance Is Diane, eager to find out how his filly is progressing.
"This will be a real good test," Mitchell said. "This will tell us where we are. We're ready."
The Grade 1 Las Virgenes is the top race on Saturday's 10-race program, which includes the $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap, a Grade 1 for older fillies and mares.
The Las Virgenes is run at a mile and leads to the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on March 11. Five of the nine fillies in the race have experience in a Grade 1 stakes, including Cash Included, who finished fifth in the BC Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs in her last start.
Romance Is Diane made her Gradeo1 debut in the Starlet. Mitchell said he feels the eight-week break between races will help the champion California-bred filly of 2006.
"I think the space between races is good," Mitchell said. "After the races, she's a little tired. I don't think she's the kind that you could run back in three weeks."
Runway Rosie was 10th in the Starlet, a result that trainer David Hofmans dismissed.
"She had a terrible trip," he said. "She was on the rail and everything was stopping in front of her."
Jump On In is starting in the longest race of her career. She won the seven-furlong Santa Ynez by 3 3/4 lengths pulling away late.
Kent Desormeaux rides Jump On In for the first time, and must reserve her speed to have any chance.