02/29/2012 5:07PM

Santa Anita: Las Virgenes a crossroads for Willa B Awesome

Shigeki Kikkawa
The filly Willa B Awesome will try to stretch out to a mile for saturday's Las Virgenes.

ARCADIA, Calif. –The $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday at Santa Anita will largely dictate how Willa B Awesome is campaigned this spring.

The winner of the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes in an 11-1 upset on Jan. 28, Willa B Awesome faces her toughest test in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes, which is run over a mile.

The competition in the field of eight includes the unbeaten sprinter Reneezgotzip, who is racing around two turns for the first time; the stakes winners Charm the Maker (Sharp Cat Stakes) and Killer Graces (Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet); and Eden’s Moon, a promising maiden race winner trained by Bob Baffert.

“We’ll know where we belong in the group,” trainer Walther Solis.

If Willa B Awesome runs well, she is likely to be pointed for the Santa Anita Oaks on March 31. A poor performance would result in starts against California-breds in coming months.

The one place that Solis does not want to see Willa B Awesome is on the lead, in a race expected to have a hot pace. Eden’s Moon led throughout her maiden race win and Reneesgotzip has plenty of speed.

Willa B Awesome led throughout the Santa Ysabel Stakes over 1 1/16 miles, but that was caused by circumstances, Solis said.

“We don’t need to go to the front,” he said. “The day she went to the front there was no other speed in the race. We can lay third or fourth and make one move.

“I hope Reneesgotzip and the Baffert hook up.”

Owned by a partnership, Willa B Awesome is the most experienced filly in the field with three wins in 10 starts and earnings of $233,896.

Martin Pedroza has the mount on Willa B Awesome, who could be part of a big day for the 46-year-old rider. He rides Santa Anita Handicap favorite Ultimate Eagle later in the day.

Pedroza has worked Willa B Awesome in recent weeks, and found her to be in good fitness.

“I think she’s improving as she’s getting older,” Solis said. Martin “was on her for her last work and he said, ‘Walther she’s ready to go.’ ”

Mr. Commons heads eight-horse Kilroe

Saturday’s 11-race program begins at noon Pacific, and there are three Grade 1 races to conclude the program. The Las Virgenes is the ninth race, followed by the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf, and the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap to conclude the program.

The Kilroe Mile drew a field of eight, and is led by Mr. Commons, who drew the rail and has already won two stakes at the meeting.