Last week, the sophomores stole the stage. Now, it’s the older horses’ turn to seize the stakes spotlight, dim as it may be this weekend.
This weekend’s stakes schedule doesn’t scream “high profile.” After all, 2021’s first Grade 1s are still two weeks away. But, it does raise its voice with highly recognizable horses running in two Santa Anita Park Grade 3s for older fillies and mares. Gulfstream Park chimes in with a Grade 3 turf stakes for older horses.
Santa Anita’s first stakes this weekend is the Las Cienegas on the Santa Anita turf. The $100,000, six-furlong race sends its seven contestants through the track’s new turf chute for the first time. Two of those contestants ring bells as they meet again: defending champion Jolie Olimpica and her rival, Oleksandra.
The second is the $200,000 La Cañada Stakes. Bob Baffert’s Fighting Mad leads a seven-filly/mare contingent over 1-1/16 miles on Santa Anita’s main track. Waiting for her, among others, is Grade 1 winner Hard Not To Love, who gets new rider Ricky Gonzalez.
Gulfstream Geezers Find Stakes Spotlight
Gulfstream’s lone stakes race of consequence is the Tropical Turf for 4-year-olds and up — emphasis on the “up.” Several 6-year-olds highlight the field. Hall of Fame trainers Chad Brown, Mark Casse, and Shug McGaughey will all send runners out for this mile jaunt on the Gulfstream turf.
OG News takes a closer look at this weekend’s stakes spotlight.
Grade 3 Las Cienegas, Saturday, Santa Anita
Brazilian-bred Jolie Olimpica introduced herself to US racing fans here last year, winning this race en route to a two-win, two-place 2020 campaign. The Richard Mandella-trained 5-year-old won this race and the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes, also finishing second in the Grade 2 Buena Vista and the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley. The Las Cienegas was Jolie Olimpica’s slowest race last year with a 111 Equibase Speed Figure.
Waiting for her is Oleksandra, who’s seeking redemption after a ninth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. That ended an eight-race, in-the-money streak. The now-7-year-old is also seeking revenge after Jolie Olimpica beat her by a half-length in the Monrovia. Also seeking a piece here is Acting Out, who’s angling for her third consecutive win.
Grade 3, La Cañada, Saturday, Santa Anita
Every horse in this deep, seven-horse field comes with familiarity. Three of these horses ran in the Grade 2 Zenyatta Stakes in September, including second-place finisher Hard Not To Love, third-place finisher and 2/5 favorite Fighting Mad, and fourth-place finisher Proud Emma. The latter rebounded from that last-place finish to win the Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes at Los Alamitos. There, she beat Baffert’s Message by a half-length and fourth-place Miss Stormy D by 9-½ lengths. Both return, along with Chilean Group 1 winner Sanenus.
Grade 3 Tropical Turf, Saturday, Gulfstream
You’ve got 6-year-old Admission Office returning after a six-month break, and the Casse-trained Ride A Comet returning after running only twice in 2020. Both of those races – his first since 2018 — put the 6-year-old Ride A Comet in the winner’s circle.
That’s also where we last found Admission Office. He won the 1-½-mile Grade 3 Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs in June. Turf maestro Brown sends out Analyze It, another 6-year-old who won twice last year after missing the previous 22 months.
Defending champion Tusk is also returning. After winning this race last year, Tusk missed the next 11 months before finishing eighth in the Claiming Crown Emerald on Dec. 8.
McGaughey’s 8-year-old Doctor Mounty actually ran five times last year. This will be his 38th career start.