Willa B Awesome Returns in Hollywood Oaks
Willa B Awesome will try for her third graded victory of 2012 in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Hollywood Oaks at Hollywood Park. The contest drew a field of eight to go 1 1/16 miles on the Cushion Track, including Eden’s Moon, Killer Graces and Via Villaggio.
Trained by Walther Solis, Willa B Awesome has already scored this year in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. Additionally, the daughter of Awesome Gambler won the Cal-bred restricted Melair Stakes in her first start of the Hollywood spring/summer meet on April 28.
Should Willa B Awesome prevail Saturday, she would become the first Melair winner to repeat in the Hollywood Oaks. The last California bred to win the Oaks was Lethal Heat in 2008.
Never off-the-board in four races over the Cushion Track, including a pair of wins, Willa B Awesome will have regular rider Martin Pedroza aboard for Saturday’s race.
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who won the 2006 Oaks with Hystericalady, will send out a pair — Killer Graces and Via Villaggio — this year.
All three of Killer Graces’ career wins have come in stakes at Hollywood Park. The Congaree miss captured the Cinderella and Landaluce in succession last year around this time, then capped her juvenile campaign with a 14-1 upset in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet.
The chestnut filly hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since the Starlet, but in her three races this year Killer Graces ran second in the Santa Ysabel and third most recently in the Grade 3 Providencia Stakes on April 7. The latter event was her first try on grass, and the sophomore miss returns to the Cushion Track over which she boasts a 3-2-0 mark in five tries.
Via Villaggio just made her Cushion Track debut last out when taking the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes. The Bernardini filly was sent off at 10-1 that day and will break just to the inside of Killer Graces’ far outside 8 post.
Eden’s Moon, whose biggest win came in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes on March 3 at Santa Anita, returns to Hollywood for the first time since she finished second in her career debut last December 16. Third behind Willa B Awesome in the Santa Anita Oaks, the daughter of Malibu Moon will try to rebound in this spot following a last-place run — 48 3/4 lengths behind winner Believe You Can — in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4 at Churchill Downs. Trainer Bob Baffert has tabbed Rafael Bejarano for the mount.
Starlight Magic was an impressive winner versus older rivals in a June 7 allowance and will be making her first appearance in a graded event in the Hollywood Oaks. Trained by Mark Glatt, the Marino Marini filly has won two of three at the Oaks distance, including a 1 3/4-length victory in the California Cup Juvenile Fillies last October 29. She wound up third in the Melair, 3 1/2 lengths behind Willa B Awesome.
Another who could make some noise in her graded bow is Potesta. The dark bay daughter of Macho Uno was an 11 1/2-length winner against maidens on May 3 over course and distance. The Mike Mitchell pupil will get a much tougher test but retains the services of jockey Joe Talamo on Saturday.