04/01/2012 4:43PM

Santa Anita: Willa B Awesome likely staying home for Melair Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Willa B Awesome gets up at the wire to win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday may turn out to be as much of a prep race for the $300,000 Melair Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 28 as a prep for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 4.

After Willa B Awesome pulled an upset in the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks, co-owner Terry Lovingier said he would suggest to his partners that the filly run at Hollywood Park in the Melair, for California-bred 3-year-old fillies.

“I would be tempted to stay here,” he said. “I race in California.”

On Sunday, trainer Walther Solis reiterated that plan.

“I’m inclined to stay home,” Solis said in an interview from Guatemala, where he is spending the week.

“I know the Kentucky Oaks is a prestigious race. That would be a long trip. Terry and I talked this morning. He told me to make the decision. He’s given me the hint.”

Willa B Awesome gave Solis, Lovingier, and co-owners Phil Daniels, Patsy London, and John Winters their their first wins in a Grade 1. Sent off at 13-1, Willa B Awesome had an ideal trip under jockey Martin Pedroza. She stalked pacesetter Reneesgotzip and 1-2 favorite Eden’s Moon and took the lead from Reneesgotzip in the final stride to win by a nose.

By Awesome Gambler, Willa B Awesome has won 4 of 12 starts and $428,896. She has won three stakes, including the Barretts Debutante at Fairplex Park last September and the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes here in January.

Solis said that Willa B Awesome will be rested this summer. After the Melair, she could have one more start at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting before being given a break during Del Mar.

“Her worst races are at Del Mar,” Solis said.

Solis missed the Santa Anita Oaks. He was in his native Guatemala, where his oldest daughter was married Saturday.

“We had two celebrations yesterday,” he said Sunday.

Reneesgotzip, Eden’s Moon eye Kentucky Oaks

Reneesgotzip and Eden’s Moon remain candidates for the Kentucky Oaks.

Reneesgotzip won the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes in January and was second to Eden’s Moon in the Las Virgenes Stakes over a mile on March 3. Reneesgotzip led every stride but the last in the Santa Anita Oaks.

The finish was so close that when trainer Peter Miller watched the replay, he leaned back when the field reached the wire, as if trying to stretch Reneesgotzip’s lead for another stride.

“Taking nothing from the winner, but we got nailed on the line,” Miller said. “I couldn’t call it.

“She never got a breather. We’ll have to talk about the Kentucky Oaks. “

Eden’s Moon emerged from the race without mishap, according to Jimmy Barnes, trainer Bob Baffert’s top assistant. Barnes said Sunday that Eden’s Moon remains on course for the Kentucky Oaks. Baffert was in Dubai on Sunday.

Eden’s Moon stalked Reneesgotzip to the top of the stretch and faded to lose by 1 1/2 lengths.

The Baffert stable has another leading contender for the Kentucky Oaks in Sunland Park Oaks winner Princess Arabella.