Neige Blanche a Class Standout in Five-Horse Astra

Neige Blanche (FR) carries high weight of 124 pounds in the $125,000 Astra Stakes (G3T) Jan. 17 at Santa Anita Park, spotting the opposition four pounds apiece. But the weight spotted would not appear enough to endanger her chances of success. A four-time stakes winner who also placed in the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1T) at age 3, she faces just four rivals, none of whom have yet earned black type. Neige Blanche will be a prohibitive favorite. The Astra, a 1 1/2-mile test on grass for older fillies and mares, is the lone graded stakes across the country over the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Neige Blanche, "white snow" in French, has already triumphed in other grade/group 3s. Winner of the Santa Barbara Stakes (G3T) going 1 1/2 miles five starts ago in May at Santa Anita, she recently took the paceless Red Carpet Handicap (G3T) over next-out stakes winner Luck when racing 1 3/8 miles at Del Mar Nov. 25. Neige Blanche also took the Prix Cleopatre (G3) in France in 2020. Neige Blanche races for Madaket Stables, Laura De Seroux, Marsha Naify, and Mathilde Powell and will have Juan Hernandez aboard. Of her four rivals, Disappearing Act and Reiwa have the strongest qualifications. The former stayed 1 1/4 miles in winning a race at Santa Anita in March, while the latter rallied for fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Miss America Stakes at Golden Gate Fields Dec. 12.