If you’ve never heard of Vasilika, don’t worry, you’re not alone. A 4-year-old daughter of Skipshot, she was running for a tag of $32,000 just a year ago. In fact, she was even competing in the lower ranks earlier this year. That was then, this is now. It’s time to get to know her. Armed with a winning streak which has grown to eight, Vasilika has quickly become one of the best stories in American racing.
Claimed in February for $40,000, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained filly will be looking for her second Grade 1 victory in Sunday’s Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar. Standing in her way will be 13 other turf runners also with strong turf credentials in what promises to be her toughest test yet.
When last seen on the green, the chestnut filly was seen splitting horses and streaking down the lane to win the Grade 2 Goldikova Stakes at Santa Anita going away. Sent off at even money that afternoon, Vasilika was surely a popular winner as she crossed the finish line in a snappy 1:33 2/5 for the flat mile. Perhaps you missed that one, as it came on Breeders’ Cup weekend.
Vasilika was not part of this year’s World Championships, but she’s certainly done everything that has been asked of her in 2018. Owned by a partnership which includes her Hall of Fame trainer, she’s run ten times this year with only a narrow second-place finish in her second start of the year standing in her way of a perfect season. The Matriarch would be a remarkable tenth win of the year, but she will only reach that benchmark if she can handle a field which includes no less than 13 stakes winners.
Chief among her competition is a three-pronged entry from America’s King of the Turf, Chad Brown. In Uni, Quidura, and Rymska, Brown brings from the East a trio of talented graded stakes winning turf mares, who between them have won 5-of-8 this year, with all of their wins coming in stakes racing. Throw in the likes of Dona Bruja, Valadorna, Mission Impassible, and Fahan Mura, and you can see why this is one of the top filly and mare turf races of the entire year. Still, as strong as the credentials of Sunday’s competition are, they pale in comparison to what Vasilika has been able to accomplish this year.
The unfolding story of Vasilika would not be complete without noting the connection with her jockey. Ridden by Flavien Prat in each of her eight consecutive wins, the duo has never been beaten together. The 26-year-old son of a trainer has quickly established himself as one of America’s top young riders, and together with this former claimer, the pair has been simply unstoppable.
“She’s so professional, she probably knows where the wire is better than me. As you saw, she’s got a really good turn of foot,” remarked Prat after their most recent win together.
The first five victories of the winning streak came in minor stakes and optional claimers, but as the wins began to pile up, and the way she was winning became more impressive, it was clear that she was ready for graded stakes racing. Her first attempt against the big girls came at Del Mar, where she utilized her patented turn of foot to easily score in the Grade 2 John C. Mabee on September 1. Finishing second that day was the multiple graded stakes winner, and defending champ, Cambodia.
Now proven for class, Vasilika set her sights on her first Grade 1 in the Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita four weeks later. Proving that the company, and the added distance of ten furlongs was well within her wheelhouse, the streaking filly got the job done for a seventh straight win. Often a cutback in distance of a quarter mile can be a challenge in top racing, but once again Vasilika was up to the challenge in her most recent race, as you saw, in the Goldikova.
Whether you like the rags to riches story of this filly going from claiming racing to Grade 1 winner, or you appreciate the dance every dance aspect of her schedule, or perhaps you are enthralled with her ever growing winning streak, clearly Vasilika is a horse to follow.
Will she make it nine in a row on Sunday at Del Mar? The competition in the Matriarch will undoubtedly be her toughest to date, but this is one filly who looks very much up to the challenge.
Photo of Vasilika courtesy of Benoit Photo