01/30/2010 12:00AM

Las Virgenes a pivotal race for La Nez


ARCADIA, Calif. - The string of ambitious races for La Nez will continue in Saturday's $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.

After finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November and third against males in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes here on Dec. 26, La Nez is back with fillies on the synthetic main track for the Grade 1 Las Virgenes. And right in the middle of a field that includes Blind Luck, the leading 3-year-old filly in California.

The Las Virgenes, which is expected to have a small field, is a vital race for La Nez. If she finishes in the first three, or even pulls an upset, trainer Eric Kruljac may try another two-turn race. If not, she will revert to one-turn races for the foreseeable future.

"If she doesn't run a big race, she'll probably never route again," he said. "I've been working on her and she'll settle a little easier going a mile.

"Blind Luck will have to regress quite a bit for anyone to have a chance. Second or third in a Grade 1 would enhances [La Nez's] resume."

Owned by A and R Racing and Class Racing stables, La Nez has won 2 of 7 starts. The BC Juvenile Fillies Turf is the only race in which she has finished worse than third. Last summer, she was third in the Grade 1 Darley Debutante, a performance followed by a win in the California Cup Juvenile Fillies here. Both of those races were over seven furlongs.

Blind Luck will be a heavy favorite in the Las Virgenes. Owned by a partnership, she has won 4 of 6 starts, including two Grade 1 races, and was third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last November.

Kruljac said his plans this weekend could be derailed if a forecast of possible rain is accurate. At the same time, he wants to start La Nez in another Grade 1 this week before the complexion of the division changes as additional 3-year-old fillies develop into stakes runners.

"There are a lot of fillies coming along now that may be better than what she ran against in September or October," Kruljac said. "That's why I'll probably go ahead and go, weather permitting."