HOU Ladies Classic Looks Like a Thriller

HOU Ladies Classic (Grade 3)- $400.000 Purse
HOU- For Fillies and Mares Four Years old and Upward
One Mile and One Sixteenth on the Dirt
January 28, 2018

Occurring in late January with a healthy $400.000 purse, the HOU Ladies Classic is in a great spot on the calendar for BC Distaff runners to make their first appearance of the New Year. We have not been disappointed, as this field of nine that are going to the gate is both strong and exciting. Included in the BC Distaff runners is the winner of the race, Viking Vania, as she embarks on her four year old season. She will not have it easy, as the one she edged out in a photo, Whispering Nurse, is also here, and would like a little payback. Added to it we have Notarized Kate and Dirty Deeds, who each were within a length. Musical Treat was also part of that field. The other four in this race are not about to be pushovers, and know a win here over the bigger names would be a huge way to start the season. So, let’s meet this exciting field!

#1- Musical Treat (Mb Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- Started towards the outside in the BC Distaff two months ago, but went right to the lead before being unable to match the pace of her rivals in the stretch and fading towards the back. That wasn’t a problem for her a few months before that at a longer distance, when she went wire to wire to win the Grade 1 Alabama at beautiful Saratoga Race Course. Overall, her 2017 was strong, winning four out of eight, and she is still batting .500 in her career now, at 6-for-12.

#2- Viking Vania (Delta Farms, ridden by R J Albarado)- Last year at odds of 10/1, she pulled off an impressive victory in the BC Distaff, bringing her career earnings over $2,000.000. With that win under her belt, it probably made a bunch of people take another look at her career up to that point, and you can see just how amazing impressive and consistent that she has been. In eleven starts, she has been a part of the exacta in all but one of them, which was an irrelevant maiden early in her career. Besides winning the BC Distaff, she also won the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at SAR, and scored second place finishes in the Grade 1 Cotillion and Grade 1 Hirsch. She is the real deal and if she stays on this form, we could just be beginning with the list of accolades.

#3- Dirty Deeds (Aer Stables, ridden by J R Velazquez)- The winner of the 2016 KYO went on to have a fantastic 2017 as well, winning three races, which included a pair of Grade 1’s: the La Troienne at CD in May, and the Beldame in late September at BEL. She would head to the BC Distaff following that race, and would run a lot better then she did in the year she won the Oaks. Dirty Deeds ran a solid fourth, and only a length or so behind Viking Vania. This is her first race of 2018, but the trainer did give her a freshener in late December in an open allowance, and she did not disappoint, winning the race. At five years old, she looks forward to more greatness on the track this year, and we should not be betting against her.

#4- Killer Angels (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by J J Castellano)- Here we meet the first runner in the field that was not part of the BC Distaff, but she has plenty of graded experience. Most of that recent experience has been on the grass, highlighted by a tough luck third place in a three-way photo for the win in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive in September at SA. She did get a graded win in the Grade 3 Regret. She’s been on the main track quite a bit as well, and early in her career she ran in some top notch races, such as the Grade 2 Adirondack at SAR. She returns to the dirt here, and will need to be on her best, because she’s going up against the best.

#5- Notarized Kate (Pristine Stables, ridden by J R Leparoux)- I’m happy to see my favorite horse in the game that I do not own (ok, and even including the ones I do own), returning for her five year old season. Notarized Kate has won eight of 28 career starts, and has hit the board 21 times, for an impressive 28-8-8-5 clip. In that span, she as accumulated $3,144.000 in career earnings, with almost a quarter of that coming last year. 2017 saw two Grade 1 wins, and it also saw a fifth place run in the BC Distaff, where her come from behind effort came up just a little short. It does actually represent the first time in her career where she has three straight off the board finishes, but the last time she was in need of a career jolt, she got it. I still think she has something left, but this is not an easy group.

#6- Laffin In Texas (Sanny Village, ridden by J Talamo)- Good to see the trainer back racing, as he already has almost as many starts in 2018 as he had in all of 2017, as of press time. Laffin In Texas would seem to be a fan favorite for the fans here at HOU, though she has only raced four times since 2015, and only had one start last season. Despite not hitting the track all that much, she runs well when she gets her chance. Her freshener last month in the $50.000 Lass Stakes saw her go fourth of five in her first race in 14 months. It’s going to be interesting to see how she follows it up.

#7- Whispering Nurse (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- In a close photo, Whispering Nurse just missed becoming a BC Champion. She did all she could that day to beat Viking Vania in the Distaff, but it would be only good for second, not that there is anything wrong with that. It culminated a great year for her, which saw her win the Grade 1 Cotillion at PRX, by a half length over second place Viking Vania. It might be too early to start calling it a rivalry like we saw with Wicked Heat and Notarized Kate, but these two four year olds have plenty of time to race one another this year. Like Viking Vania, Whispering Nurse is exceptionally consistent, with seven wins in 13 career starts, and she has never failed to hit the board in her career. After the Distaff, she stayed out west and won the Grade 1 La Brea to successfully round out her 2017.

#8- Lady Opus (Luz International, ridden by D Van Dyke)- The five year old mare by Broomstick Opus takes on the strongest competition she has ever seen as she returns to running over a mile. She had a nice summer at the CT bullring, winning three straight, highlighted by the $50.000 Pink Ribbon. Lady Opus does know how to be near the front, hitting the board in ten of her 13 career starts, but this is quite a task. I like this mare, and think she’ll do fine with the distance, but against five BC Distaff runners, she could be over her head. Although those Broomsticks know how to step up.

#9- Mortality (John Henry, ridden by P Husbands)- While Mortality is not one of the five runners in this race who ran in the BC Distaff, she has had several races against Distaff caliber horses over the course of her young career. Last Spring, she ran in the KYO, though finished in the middle of the field. Her best runs were earlier in the year, winning the Grade 2 Alexandra Stakes at FG in February, then running second in the Grade 1 Ashland in April. After running in the KYO, she had a couple disappointing runs before a better-then-it-looks fifth place run at the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. She also last ran on BC weekend, doing her run at CD for the Grade 2 Chilukki, a race that she won. I think she is coming around a little bit and is going to have a good run here, but maybe it will take another race or two before she gets a big win against the class of her division.

Prediction: 7-2-5-3

— NS

Categories: Grade III, STAKES ARTICLES

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