Always a Princess upsets El Encino

Updated: January 16, 2011, 8:58 PM ET
By Steve Andersen | Daily Racing Form



ARCADIA, Calif. -- Always a Princess upset Blind Luck in Sunday's $150,000 El Encino Stakes at Santa Anita, taking advantage of a track that favors speed in two-turn races to win by 3 1/2 lengths.

Blind Luck, the leading 3-year-old filly of 2010 and the 3-5 favorite in the El Encino, was last to the turn and closed on the outside, never threatening the winner. After the race, she unseated jockey Joel Rosario when she stumbled while galloping out on the backstretch, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said later that Blind Luck was not hurt in the incident.

The trainer was more upset about the trend of two-turn races on Santa Anita's sand-and-clay track since the meeting opened on Dec. 26, hinting that Blind Luck could race at another track later this winter or spring.

"My filly got beat," he said, while walking back to the stables. "We may have to do something else. If the track stays the same way, I don't think we'll run here."

Always a Princess ($9.80) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.47, giving trainer Bob Baffert his second stakes win of the weekend. Saturday, Baffert won the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes with Indian Firewater. Baffert missed Sunday's race while on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Always a Princess was the third choice in a field of five 4-year-old fillies in the Grade 2 El Encino. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Always a Princess raced just behind pacesetter Champagne d'Oro, who set an early pace of 22.38 and 45.41 seconds. Always a Princess was within a head of Champagne d'Oro on the turn, while eight lengths clear of closest pursuer Fashion Trend at that stage.

Entering the stretch, Always a Princess had every advantage.

Always a Princess led by 2 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole and widened her lead through the stretch.

"They went fast, but we kept going," said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert's assistant.

Blind Luck finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of 26-1 Fashion Trend, who was followed by Champagne d'Oro and Malibu Pier, the 5-2 second choice who faded rapidly through the stretch.

Always a Princess races for breeder Arnold Zetcher and has won 4 of 8 starts and $426,048. The El Encino ended a two-race losing streak since the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks at Hoosier Park in October. As a 2-year-old in 2009, Always a Princess was second in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes and fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

"We knew she had it in her," Zetcher said. "The plan was to be on the lead. I thought she had the stamina."