The do-it-all duo of owner/trainer Don Schnell and his swift mare Escape Clause are getting Southern California thoroughbred racing fans buzzing. That’s because Escape Clause –$4.20, $2.80, $2.40 — was the dominant winner of the $100,000 La Canada Stakes Jan 12 at Santa Anita.

Escape Clause at Santa Anita
Manitoba-bred mare Escape Clause is making Santa Anita Park her home away from home as she runs away with the win in the La Cañada Stakes last weekend. (Image: Orange County Register)

As Schnell, 66, remarked, “I said the other day something like, can you imagine this? A hick-town trainer taking a hick-town horse and being a favorite in a stakes at Santa Anita?”

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Schnell, who vanned Escape Clause back to her winter home at Turf Paradise near Phoenix, leaving at 2 a.m. just hours after the race.

“I’m always proud of her, especially today,” Schnell told reporters after the Manitoba-bred mare who had been winning at minor league race tracks showed a major-league turn-of-foot to win the La Canada by 5 ½ lengths.

A Do-It-All Horseman

Not only is Schnell the owner and trainer of Escape Clause, but also he’s her blacksmith and groom, too. “I guess we get along pretty well,” Schnell told TVG after the race.

The five-year-old Escape Clause is no stranger to the winners’ circle. But, the Grade 3 La Cañada at 1 mile and one-sixtreetnth was the first graded stakes win for Escape Clause and her veteran conditioner, who began his training career in 1972.

Escape Clause is Schnell’s best horse by far, now with $423,500 earnings. The Going Commando mare has won a remarkable 19 of her 28 starts. She’s been victorious at six different racetracks that include Santa Anita and Del Mar (via disqualification) in Southern California. She also won at Canterbury Park in Minnesota as well as western Canadian racing outposts, Century Downs, Assiniboia Downs and Northlands Park.

A Do-It-All Horse

Escape Clause is multi-talented having posted wins of both grass and dirt. It should be noted that the hard working mare has won all her last nine starts on dirt.

“I didn’t know her acceleration was that doggone fast,” jockey Tyler Baze said recalling the three-wide move Escape Clause made to spurt to the front in the La Cañada. “If I knew that, I actually would have waited a lot longer. I was kinda niggling on her on the backside, but, man, when I slapped her on the shoulder once—it was unbelievable.”

Escape Clause finished the distance in 1:41.89 on a wet-fast (sealed) track in an effort in which both Baze and Schnell remarked she wasn’t really running all-out in the stretch.

“I don’t know how much is left there because she was pulling up. She wasn’t even running,” Baze said. “She was kinda looking around, looking at the grandstand. What an unbelievable feeling, because I don’t know what’s under the hood, but it’s way more than she showed today.”

Schnell says he’ll be back at Santa Anita either for the Buena Vista Stakes – a mile on the turf – on Feb. 23 or the Beholder Mile – on the dirt – on March 16.