Two things are certain in Saturday's one mile Buena Vista Stakes on Santa Anita's turf: Vasilika will be favored and Fahan Mura will be the one to catch.
A chestnut daughter of the Smart Strike sire English Channel, Fahan Mura has been in front from the opening of the gates for her last 10 races in a row, or ever since jockey Edwin Maldonado got the mount almost a year ago, on March 25, 2018.
Together, they have won five races including the Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes on Dec. 29. Last out, they led for about a half-mile in the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational against males at 1 3/16 miles on a yielding course at Gulfstream Park Jan. 26 before fading to 10th and last at odds of 42-1.
“It wasn't really the distance that compromised her chances,” said Vladimir Cerin, who trains the five-year-old Pennsylvania-bred for Bran Jam Stables and David W. Clark.
“She won the Frankel at a mile and an eighth, and the Pegasus was only a sixteenth of a mile longer, but she was done after three jumps, the ground was so soft.
“She doesn't handle it well. This turf course dries up very quickly so it should be good for her, but if it's got a lot of cut in the ground, she won't run.”
Addressing style and strategy, Cerin asked rhetorically, “Who's going to keep her from being in front? She's done 44 and four here and kept going and she loves this turf course.”
Fahan Mura led Vasilika on a merry chase before yielding twice, finishing third by less than two lengths in the Grade II John C. Mabee at a mile and an eighth, and second in Grade II Goldikova at a mile on grass.
Cerin willingly offers kudos to Maldonado.
“I give Edwin all the credit,” Cerin said, “because he never restrained her. He just let her be herself and have a nice, free pace from the beginning to the end.”
The Grade II Buena Vista, race eight of 10 offering $200,000 in purse money with a 12:25 p.m. first post time: Take These Chains, Tiago Pereira, 12-1; Ms Bad Behavior, Mike Smith, 5-1; Zaffinah, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; Fahan Mura, Edwin Maldonado, 6-1; Compelled, Joe Talamo, 12-1; Amandine, Drayden Van Dyke, 8-1; English Dancer, Kent Desormeaux, 20-1; Elysea's World, Joel Rosario, 4-1; Vasilika, Flavien Prat, 8-5; and Streak of Luck, Tyler Baze, 20-1.
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