A two-time graded stakes winner who has been idle since well beaten by champion Gamine in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 7, the Richard Baltas-trained Venetian Harbor heads a field of eight fillies and mares going 6 ½ furlongs on turf in the Grade 2, $200,000 Monrovia Stakes at Santa Anita Park on June 5.
Although she looms large on class alone, Venetian Harbor will face serious opposition as she catches a field with four last-out winners and a pair of distaffers that come off of second-place finishes in their most recent starts.
The Keith Abrahams homebred Constantia rates high on the list of recent winners, as she rallied impressively to take an ungraded sprint stakes going six furlongs on turf here April 17 and the Baltas-trained Nasty, a gate to wire ungraded stakes winner here at a flat mile on turf back on Dec. 26, also rates a huge chance.
A winner of Santa Anita’s Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes going a flat mile on the main track in her third start on Feb. 8, 2020, Venetian Harbor was then second as the odds-on favorite to eventual champion 3-year-old Filly Swiss Skydiver in Oaklawn Park’s Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes May 1 and was subsequently second in both the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland July 11 and the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 8. A winner of the Raven Run Stakes (G2) two starts back going seven furlongs on dirt at Keeneland Oct. 17, Venetian Harbor was never a factor when beaten 16 ½ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Keeneland Nov. 7.
Although she’s be trying a new game with turf on Saturday, Venetian Harbor, in her only start on grass, ran a solid second in her career debut, beaten three quarters of a length going five furlongs at Del Mar on Nov. 15, 2019.
Owned by Ciaglia Racing, LLC, Highland Yard, LLC, River Oak Farm and Domenic Savides, Venetian Harbor, a 4-year-old filly by Munnings out of the Street Cry mare Sounds of the City, will be ridden for the first time by Mario Gutierrez. With an overall mark of 8-3-4-0, she has earnings of $513,400.
Thomas Hoping For Firm Turf For Corelli in Monmouth Stakes
A winner in his 2021 comeback race on April 24 at Pimlico Race Course, Corelli will step up to graded stakes company again when the grass specialist goes in the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 5.
The Monmouth Stakes and Grade 2 Monrovia at Santa Anita Park are the only other graded stakes taking place on Saturday that are not at Belmont Park.
After racing in England for his first 10 career starts, Corelli came into trainer Jonathan Thomas’ care last year. Though winless in four starts in 2020, the son of Point of Entry did manage to get third in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park at a mile and three-eighths. But that was the extent of his success, with two of his races last year at a mile and three-eighths and one at a mile and a half in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. All were on the turf.
Cut back to 1 1/16-miles for his first start this year, Corelli rallied to win by a nose in the $100,000 Henry Clark over a firm turf course.
Thomas found out in the Sword Dancer the Corelli wants nothing to do with a soft turf course. In his last start in England over a soft grass course Corelli finished 15th. In the Sword Dancer he was fifth in the seven-horse field, beaten 18 lengths.
“The turf was very soft for the Sword Dancer that day,” said Thomas. “We learned with this horse that he is not a soft turf horse. He’s a big horse. He does not like the soft ground.”