Vision in Gold Eyes Santa Maria Repeat

After a failed try in her comeback race one month ago, Vision in Gold will have to overtake trainer Bob Baffert’s streaking Ellafitz on Saturday if she is to successfully defend her title in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.


Bet down to 9-10 favoritism following 10 months on the sidelines, Vision in Gold simply could not keep up with Ellafitz in Santa Anita’s Paseana Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 15. As the latter sped to her second consecutive dominant stakes victory, this time by 4 ¼ lengths, Vision in Gold faded to sixth in a field of seven.


Vision in Gold clearly needed the race in the Paseana, but Jay Em Ess Stable’s 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro will be facing a surging Ellafitz among six opponents in Saturday’s 60th running of an event that has been won by a host of notable females.


Owned by D. and E. Racing of David and Ella Sivage, the 5-year-old Ellafitz raced 11 times before winning her first stakes race, Hollywood Park’s Grade II Bayakoa Handicap by 3 ¼ lengths last Dec. 4. “She had little things that bothered her, but she’s getting better with age,” Baffert said afterward.


The Hall of Fame trainer and rider Martin Garcia have concluded that Ellafitz does her best if allowed to run freely. “Mr. Bob (Baffert) told me to just let her run,” Garcia said following the Paseana romp. “She just wants to run. She doesn’t want you to take hold of her.”


Garcia will be back aboard the daughter of Tiznow who is named for her dam, Skat Girl, a reference to the late jazz legend, Ella FitzGerald. Ellafitz will come into Saturday’s competition with earnings of $277,957 from a 5-2-2 record in 13 career starts.


Jockey Joel Rosario will rejoin Vision in Gold when seeking a return to form that could allow her to become only the second back-to-back winner of the Santa Maria. Gay Style pulled off the double in 1975 and ’76 for legendary Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham. The great Paseana won the Santa Maria in 1992 before running second the succeeding three years. Other notable one-time winners include Serena’s Song (1996), Bayakoa (1990), Susan’s Girl (1973), Turkish Trousers (1973), Gamely (1968), Silver Spoon (1960) and Honeymoon (1946).


When defeating Zardana and defending champion St Trinians in last year’s Santa Maria, Vision in Gold gained her first stakes win with Rosario in the irons for trainer Ron Ellis. One month later, she was beaten by only one-half length when third to Miss Match and Switch in Santa Anita’s Grade I Santa Margarita Invitational. She subsequently went on the shelf. Vision in Gold shows earnings of $208,400 from a 3-2-1 record in 10 career starts.


Brazilian-bred Great Hot, a solid second behind impressive Include Me Out in Santa Anita’s Grade II La Canada Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 22, makes her second start as a 4-year-old for trainer A.C. Avila and owner Jessica Coudelaria. A winner of last year’s Grade II Raven Run Stakes going seven furlongs at Keeneland, Great Hot has earnings of $357,265 from a record of 4-1-3 in 10 races. Chantal Sutherland rides the bay filly.


The complete field for the Santa Maria Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Spirit Seeker, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Ellafitz, Martin Garcia, 123; Miss Mittagong, Mario Gutierrez, 118; Love Theway You are, Alonso Quinonez, 118; Kayce Ace, Joseph Talamo, 118; Great Hot, Chantal Sutherland, 118, and Vision in Gold, Joel Rosario, 118.


The Santa Maria will be contested as the eighth race on a card of 10 races with first post at 12:30 p.m. as Santa Anita launches a three-day holiday weekend that extends through Monday’s Presidents’ Day.



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