ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 31, 2015)–Owner/trainer Wesley Ward’s Shrinking Violet returns to Southern California to defend her title against 11 other older fillies and mares in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Monrovia Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course.
A well beaten ninth as the even money favorite in the 6 ½ furlong turf Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint Stakes Sept. 14, Shrinking Violet was a 4 ¾ length winner of the five furlong turf Daisycutter Handicap two starts back at Del Mar on Aug. 7. A 6-year-old mare by Congaree, Shrinking Violet’s lone start down Santa Anita’s unique hillside layout resulted in a length and a quarter score in last year’s Monrovia.
With Kent Desormeaux engaged to ride her back, Shrinking Violet has good tactical speed and the ability to kick clear when called upon. Desormeaux, who was aboard for last year’s Monrovia win, has guided her to three wins from five tries. With eight wins from 20 starts, Shrinking Violet has earnings of $456,528.
Well beaten going one mile on turf in the Grade I Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar Nov. 29, Brazilian-bred Baruta returns to the site of her Grade III Sen. Ken Maddy Stakes win two starts back on Oct. 25 and will break from the far outside with Flavien Prat. Trained by Richard Mandella, the 7-year-old Baruta is 7-2-3-1 down the hill and will be bidding for her seventh lifetime win from 23 starts. Owned and bred by Rio Dois Irmaos, LLC, she has earnings of $313,808.
In her only start at Santa Anita, trainer Arnaud Delacour’s Ageless was a close fourth, beaten three quarters of a length in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 1, 2014. A winner of Woodbine’s Grade III Royal North Stakes at six furlongs on turf two starts back July 26, the 7-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Successful Appeal comes off a head victory in a minor stakes going 5 ½ furlongs on turf at Keeneland Oct. 9.
Owned by Lael Stables, Ageless will be handled by her regular rider, Julien Leparoux, who was on holiday in his native France the past week. Ageless has an enviable lifetime mark of 22-11-4-4, with earnings of $713,130.
In what ranks as one of the best recent claims in Southern California, trainer Matt Chew haltered California-bred Singing Kitty for $32,000 on Dec. 11, 2014, and guided her through a 2015 campaign that included three stakes wins from eight starts and year-end earnings of $267,800.
Most recently third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths in the one mile turf Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes Oct. 17, the 4-year-old Ministers Wild Cat filly seeks her first graded win in the Monrovia. Owned by Chris Aulds and Peter Jeong, Singing Kitty drew the rail and will be ridden for the first time by Gary Stevens. Her overall mark stands at 13-5-1-1, and she has earnings of $332,988.
The complete field for the Grade II Monrovia Stakes, to be run as the seventh race on a nine-race program Sunday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Singing Kitty, Gary Stevens, 118; My Year Is a Day, Tyler Baze, 118; Heavens Stairway, Iggy Puglisi, 118; Our Pure Creation, Fernando Perez, 118; Prize Exhibit, Santiago Gonzalez, 123; Shrinking Violet, Kent Desormeaux, 120; Velvet Mesquite, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Illuminant, Mike Smith, 118; Lutine Belle, Alex Solis, 118; Theatre Star, Drayden Van Dyke, 118; Ageless, Julien Leparoux, 118, and Baruta, Flavien Prat, 118.
First post time on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.