06/21/2012 2:38PM

Hollywood Park: Willa B Awesome no longer a longshot for Hollywood Oaks

Shigeki Kikkawa
Willa B Awesome, who scored at odds of 10-1 and 13-1 in two stakes earlier this season, will be a far shorter price in Saturday's Hollywood Oaks.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The days of surprise wins from Willa B Awesome are over.

When she starts in Saturday’s $150,000 Hollywood Oaks at Betfair Hollywood Park, Willa B Awesome may be favored. The days of her winning stakes at double-digit prices, such as the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at 13-1 in January or the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks at 10-1 in March, are over.

When she won the Melair Stakes against California-breds here in late April, Willa B Awesome was even-money and won by a nose.

The success of Willa B Awesome has provided trainer Walther Solis and the partnership that owns the filly with career milestones, their first wins at the highest level of racing.

“The horse has put us in this position,” Solis said. “She gives 110 percent.”

For the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks over 1 1/16 miles, Willa B Awesome has drawn the rail, a slight concern for Solis.

The competition includes Eden’s Moon, the winner of the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes in March but last of 14 in the Kentucky Oaks on May 4; and Killer Graces, the winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet here last December. Killer Graces was winless in three starts at Santa Anita earlier this year.

Starlight Magic, the winner of the California Cup Juvenile Fillies last October, will be after her first graded stakes win. Customer Base, Open Water, and Potesta have yet to win a stakes. Via Villaggio won the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes over seven furlongs here on May 19, but has yet to win a graded stakes around two turns.

Because of the rail draw, Solis said he will emphasize race strategy with jockey Martin Pedroza. They may choose to urge Willa B Awesome away from the gate to get position.

“Then, maybe everyone has to go around us to get the lead,” Solis said. “We’re on the rail and I don’t want to get stuck behind horses and not be able to get out.”

Willa B Awesome has led or stalked the pace in her stakes wins this year. If Eden’s Moon leads, Solis said Willa B Awesome will be comfortable racing from just off the pace.

Any question about Willa B Awesome’s quickness was put to rest when she worked five furlongs in 59 seconds last Sunday, the fastest of 57 recorded works at the distance.

“The workout on Sunday was a hell of a good work,” Solis said.

Eden’s Moon will be backed because of her reputation, and is likely to set the pace. She was third in the Santa Anita Oaks, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Willa B Awesome, but was not a factor in the final six furlongs of the Kentucky Oaks.

The loss left trainer Bob Baffert confused, but he said he has since regained confidence in Eden’s Moon.

“She had that disappointing run in the Kentucky Oaks,” he said. “She never picked her feet up. She didn’t break.

“She came back here and she’s been training well for this race. She should run her race. I like the way she’s been training.”