Short, strong field set for La Canada

Updated: February 13, 2011, 12:09 AM ET
By Brad Free | Daily Racing Form



ARCADIA, Calif. -- The pecking order in the older female division is up for revision Sunday at Santa Anita, where all the big names are trying something different in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes.

Harmonious, a Grade 1-winning turf specialist, switches to the main track.

Always a Princess, a Grade 2 winner at 1 1/16 miles, tests her stamina by stretching out to 1 1/8 miles.

Finally, there is Blind Luck. Champion 3-year-old filly of 2010, her unsatisfactory recent comeback -- how dare she finish second? -- raised more questions than it answered.

Blind Luck, Harmonious, and Always a Princess command attention in the last leg of Santa Anita's three-race series for 4-year-old fillies. The $150,000 La Canada and Grade 2 Santa Maria, a day earlier on Saturday, determine challengers to Switch in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes on March 12.

"I will be scouting the competition," Switch's trainer John Sadler said.

Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Blind Luck entered winter as presumptive heir to the West Coast filly-mare throne vacated by Zenyatta. But the Blind Luck that struggled to finish second in her Jan. 15 comeback hardly resembled the Blind Luck that in 2010 won five stakes and three Grade 1s and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.

It is possible that Blind Luck, who earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure, does not care for the new dirt track at Santa Anita that favors speed around two turns. The answer will be definitive Sunday.

"If she does not run [well] because she does not like the track, then we'll run her at Oaklawn Park," Hollendorfer assistant trainer Dan Ward said.

Ward remains bullish on Blind Luck, who has won nine races and more than $2.4 million from 16 starts.

"She's going to run a better race this time," Ward said. "Her last three works have been phenomenal."

That includes a half-mile workout Thursday morning that raised eyebrows because Blind Luck sidestepped the main track and worked instead on the training track.

Ward said Blind Luck's feet were uncomfortable training regularly on the main oval.

"An inside quarter was sore and her frogs were sore," he said. "She worked on the training track [Thursday] and her feet were ice cold" Friday.

Hollendorfer and Ward are hopeful Blind Luck improves while reuniting with Rafael Bejarano, whose finesse helped guide Blind Luck to three Grade 1 wins, including the Kentucky Oaks.

Joel Rosario rode Blind Luck her last five starts, two wins and three seconds. Rosario stays with Harmonious, a two-time Grade 1 winner on turf whose workouts on the Santa Anita dirt track include two sharp five-furlong moves and a six-furlong work Jan. 28 in 1:10.80 that earned the bullet as fastest of the morning.

"She worked very well," trainer John Shirreffs said, emphasizing very. "The first time she got dirt in her face, she didn't like it, then she got accustomed to it. It has to transfer to the afternoon."

Future plans for Harmonious, 4 for 8, depend on how she handles dirt in the La Canada.

"We know she likes turf," Shirreffs said.

Although workouts suggest Harmonious can handle the main track, both she and Blind Luck face a challenging pace scenario in the La Canada. Always a Princess, sharp winner of the El Encino, enters the La Canada as the lone speed.

If Always a Princess gets loose, that is fine for jockey Martin Garcia.

"I will follow instructions" from trainer Bob Baffert, Garcia said, while cognizant of the pace scenario. "I know she's the only filly in the race that has speed. Hopefully, she can be alone on the lead and relax."

Always a Princess has won four of eight; her 3 1/2-length win in the El Encino was after pressing the fastest six furlongs of the meet for 1 1/16 miles, 1:08.72, over a surface that favored speed. The La Canada will be the first time Always a Princess has raced beyond 1 1/16 miles.

Two others also entered the La Canada. They include 2-for-11 Fashion Trend, a minor stakes winner at Fairplex Park and recently third in the El Encino; and longshot Life Well Lived, a full sister to Well Armed who has won one of six.