Updated on 09/16/2011 6:48AM

Habibti, You, and a talented 6

Benoit & Assoc.
Habibti won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet by a head over You

ARCADIA, Calif. - Considering it will be widely perceived as a two-filly race, the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes attracted a lot of window dressing Sunday at Santa Anita.

Habibti and You renew a rivalry in the mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies; six others aim to upset. They include potential star Spring Meadow, and stakes winners Tali'sluckybusride and Bella Bella Bella. With speedball Rich Musique and two other longshots, the Las Virgenes is not a walkover for either favorite.

Habibti and You have not raced since Dec. 16, when Habibti won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet by a head over You. "I had her really primed for that race," said Habibti's trainer Bob Baffert. As for Sunday, "she'll run well because she's a good filly, but we haven't been gutting her out."

There is good reason. Baffert's objective this winter has been to fatten up Habibti, but so far, it has not happened. Habibti is extremely thin, and Baffert has not drilled her in the same aggressive manner that he did before the Starlet. Habibti's longest recent work has been six furlongs. Her two works before winning the Starlet were bullet moves at seven furlongs.

Does it make Habibti vulnerable first start back? Perhaps. Further, Habibti's physical appearance suggests the Kentucky Derby is out of the question. "I've had people show me [future] tickets on her at 150-1 to win the Derby, but those tickets aren't worth very much right now," Baffert said.

According to Baffert, any decision to run Habibti vs. males would be made by her owner, Prince Ahmed Salman, and Thoroughbred Corp. racing manager Richard Mulhall. If it was up to Baffert, "I wouldn't run her in the Derby. If I did, I'd have to turn her out the rest of the year because she's so light."

The Las Virgenes is only the beginning of the year for Habibti,

3 for 4 and at the top of the class into the winter-spring season. To win the Las Virgenes, she must deal again with the Bobby Frankel-trained You. Owned by Ed Gann, You has won 3 of 6, including the Grade 1 Frizette in October. You drew the outside post in a field of 8, but Frankel said: "For her, it might not be bad. Every time this filly has run good, she's been on the outside."

Unlike rival Habibti, who rallies from behind, You is a presser. It will be up to Jerry Bailey to find a favorable trip from the outside. It won't be easy with at at least four front-runners to her inside. If Habibti is vulnerable off a light training pattern, and You is vulnerable because of post, the Las Virgenes could be ripe for an upset by Spring Meadow.

One start into her career, Spring Meadow is being thrown to the wolves. Trained by Bob Hess, Spring Meadow won her debut by four lengths. It was no surprise, according to Hess. "Everything she has done in the morning has been effortless, she does everything with consummate ease," he said. Hess admits she has a tall order Sunday.

"She's giving away seasoning, experience, and she has to prove she can go long around two turns," Hess said. "But even though some Meadowlakes can't go long, her conformation says she will. She's a long, lanky, rangy filly." And, she is fast. Spring Meadow earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in her debut, she has trained super since, and could be a star. She is owned by Fog City Stable.

The pace of the Las Virgenes will be set by Rich Musique, a speedster who has won 2 of 4 around one turn. Her weapon may prove her downfall over a route of ground. "I'm sure she's not going to have to go 44-and-two," trainer Vladimir Cerin said. "If she does, she won't win. But what if she goes 46-and-two?"

Rich Musique is taking off blinkers, and Cerin said "she has been working a little more kindly in the morning."

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