Photo: Zoe Metz
Fresh off a rousing 3 ¾ length win going seven furlongs, reigning Eclipse Champion Female Sprinter Finest City will stretch out to a mile and one eighth as she takes on streaking Vale Dori in Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita.
The prestigious Santa Margarita, to be run for the 80th time, has attracted a field of eight older fillies and mares, including the Art Sherman-trained Show Stealer, who has faced Vale Dori in her last three starts, finishing second in both the Grade II La Canada Stakes on Jan. 14 and the Grade II Santa Maria on Feb. 11.
FINEST CITY: An upset winner of the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint two starts back her on Nov. 5, trainer Ian Kruljac’s star pupil was a facile winner of the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes going seven furlongs over a wet fast track on Jan. 21 in her 5-year-old debut.A Pennsylvania-bred daughter of City Zip, Finest City has routed twice on turf, giving a good account of herself on both occasions, when second in the Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes at a 1 1/8 miles on Sept. 4, and a close fourth in the Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 16.Although Mike Smith has ridden her to victory in her last two races, he’ll be out of town to ride at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, so Tyler Baze will have the Santa Margarita assignment.Owned by Seltzer Thoroughbreds, Finest City is 15-5-4-2 and has earnings of $1,045,594.
VALE DORI:Trained by Bob Baffert and at the peak of her powers, this 5-year-old Argentine-bred mare seeks her fifth win in a row and her fourth consecutive graded stakes victory, with her most recent a 1 ¾ length score in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles Santa Maria over a wet fast surface on Feb. 11.Odds-on in six of her seven Southern California starts for Baffert, she likes to press the early pace or take her rivals gate to wire.Ridden by Mike Smith in her last three starts, she’ll be handled by Rafael Bejarano on Saturday.A Group I winner at age three in Argentina, she’ll be seeking her first Grade I win in the United States.Owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, Vale Dori is 12-7-3-1 overall with earnings of $694,943.
SHOW STEALER: Owned and bred by CHRB Commissioner, George Krikorian, this consistent 5-year-old mare by Eskendereya was clearly second best to Vale Dori in both the La Canada and Santa Maria Stakes under Tyler Baze.With Baze opting to ride Finest City, Kent Desormeaux will try his hand for the first time on Saturday.Should a hot pace develop, Show Stealer will hope to be on the move late as she seeks her first stakes win under the ever-patient Desormeaux.With an overall mark of 21-3-4-3, she has earnings of $257,180.
THE GRADE I SANTA MARGARITA STAKES WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 9 of 10 Approximate post time 4:30 p.m. PST
1. Autumn Flower—Martin Pedroza--120
2. Vale Dori—Rafael Bejarano--122
3. Finest City—Tyler Baze—120
4. Show Stealer—Kent Desormeaux—120
5. Lady Tapit—Mario Gutierrez—120
6. Perfect Pic—Santiago Gonzalez—120
7. Wild At Heart—Flavien Prat—120
8. Estrechada—Stewart Elliott—120
Source: Santa Anita Park