Eden’s Moon made the transition from maiden ranks to Grade 1 winner look easy on Saturday as the daughter of Malibu Moon powered to a 3 ¼-length victory in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita.
Under Martin Garcia, Eden’s Moon broke sharply and assumed command heading into the first turn. Reneesgotzip gave chase but went wide around the clubhouse turn in her first attempt around two turns. Without any significant early pressure, Garcia was able to get Eden’s Moon to relax on the lead through solid fractions of :23.16 and :46.47.
At the top of the stretch, Eden’s Moon received a stern challenge from Reneesgotzip. There was a slight bump between the two runners as Garcia aggressively asked his mount for run. Eden’s Moon responded gamely and powered away from Reneesgotzip in the late stages. Eden’s Moon hit the wire clear of the runner-up and stopped the clock in 1:35.27.
“She’s a really good filly,” said Garcia. “Even though they put pressure on her right out of the gate, she relaxed for me. The seven (Reneesgotzip) pressed me real hard going to the far turn and she bumped my filly’s hind end which turned her a little sideways and she switched leads.”
Trainer Bob Baffert was pleased with his charge’s performance.
“I was hoping we’d be on the lead, get her out there and get her into a groove,” said Baffert. “I felt we could handle the distance. When Reneesgotzip went wide on the (first) turn, she eased off of us, so that was good.
“She’s getting better and better at a distance,” he added.” Distance is not a problem for her. I don’t know if it (Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on March 31) will be next. We’ll see how she comes out of this and keep her happy. We want to take her to the Kentucky Oaks (May 4), so that’s what we’re pointing for.”
The win provided owner Kaleem Shah with his first Grade 1. Eden’s Moon is a daughter of Malibu Moon out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Eden’s Causeway. She was bred by Bridlewood Farm.
The race wasn’t without controversy. Trainer Peter Miller, who saddled runner-up and race favorite Reneesgotzip, lodged an objection against the winner after the race for interference in the stretch. Following a stewards’ review, the objection was not allowed.
“She got hit with the whip in the face,” said Miller. “We’ll point her toward the Santa Anita Oaks. I don’t see any reason why not. She got hit. It was obvious she got hit over the nose with the whip.”
Jockey Corey Nakatani saw the bumping incident in the stretch a little differently than Garcia.
“These two-year-olds, they get hit in the face, and you can see she shakes her head twice when he hit her,” Nakatani said. “So hopefully the steward sees that. That was the difference between winning and losing. At that point, it was a two-horse race.
“You can see where she shifts out and Martin hits my horse across the face with the whip twice,” he added. “My filly just popped her head up. When a horse gets hit in the face, the tape shows that, and you can see it. As far as I know, the rules state that you’re supposed to take the horse down when that happens. I was going two to his one at that point, and Martin shifted out, and we bushed a little bit, and when he hit his filly, he hit my horse twice in the face with the whip.”