ARCADIA, Calif. -- Thirteen fillies in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita will try to claim leadership of the 2-year-old filly division, a spot vacated Tuesday when Mi Sueno was injured in a Hollywood Park workout.
As a Win and You're In race, the Oak Tree gives its winner a guaranteed spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
The defection of Mi Sueno opens the door for Oak Leaf starters Pure Class and Always a Princess, whose big Del Mar maiden wins suggest they are something special, even if both are short on seasoning. Pure Class has started twice, Always a Princess only once.
John Sadler trains Pure Class, one of only two entrants who have won a route. Sadler believes the 1 1/16-mile distance favors Pure Class, who stretched to a mile Sept. 7 and won by five lengths.
"We're ahead of the curve, because we've run long," Sadler said. "She's got a lot of natural route ability, and I haven't had to do a lot with her."
Mike Smith rides Pure Class, whose two-turn maiden win was every bit as impressive as the five-length margin. Pure Class dropped out early, raced inside and behind horses on the far turn, split runners rallying inside, switched leads on cue at the head of the lane, and drew off powerfully while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 81.
Always a Princess, meanwhile, will be making just her second start, having overcome trouble to win her Sept. 5 debut at 5 1/2 furlongs. The Oak Leaf will determine if Always a Princess takes after her two-turn sire Leroidesanimaux, or sprint dam Gabriellina Giof.
"She has lots of stamina, she looks like 'Leroy,'" trainer Bob Baffert said. Always a Princess does not have to win the Oak Leaf to go forward to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but she needs to hit the board.
"She'll tell us. We'll know if she deserves a run," Baffert said.
Garrett Gomez rides Always a Princess, who will break from the rail and is expected to be forwardly placed while Pure Class rallies from the back.
The remainder of the Oak Leaf field is filled with unproven prospects, including four from the low-rated, visually unappealing Del Mar Debutante -- runner-up Blind Luck, third place La Nez, fourth place It Tiz, and fifth place Repo.