May 26, 2024

Top-heavy editions of La Canada, Las Cienegas highlight Santa Anita card

Fighting Mad
Gary and Mary West's Fighting Mad and jockey Abel Cedillo win the Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes, Sunday, May 31, 2020 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA. © BENOIT PHOTO

La Canada (G3) — Race 8 — 6:30 p.m. ET

Las Cienegas (G3) — Race 9 — 7:00 p.m. ET

The co-features on Saturday’s program at Santa Anita, the $200,000 La Canada Stakes (G3) and $100,000 Las Cienegas Stakes (G3), have both come up top-heavy. Indeed, both fixtures for fillies and mares could come down to the leading candidates in each.

The La Canada, at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, has attracted last year’s Clement L. Hirsch (G1) and Santa Maria (G2) winner Fighting Mad, as well as Grade 1 veteran Hard Not to Love. Although Fighting Mad got the better of Hard Not to Love in both of the latter’s victories, Hard Not to Love out-finished that rival in their mutual last start, the Sept. 27 Zenyatta (G2). Hard Not to Love was beaten less than a length into second by the 3-year-old Harvest Moon, with Fighting Mad a weakening third after setting the pace.

Among those looking to spring an upset are Proud Emma and Message, one-two in last month’s Bayakoa (G3) at Los Alamitos, and Chilukki (G3) runner-up Sanenus.

The Las Cienegas, over 6 furlongs on the turf, has attracted a pair of Grade/Group 1 winners in Oleksandra and Jolie Olimpica. Oleksandra beat the boys in the Jaipur (G1) at Belmont Park last summer, but was a dull ninth in attempting to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Keeneland off a 4 1/2-month layoff.

Jolie Olimpica, who won the Las Cienegas last year in her U.S. debut after a Group-1 winning stint in her native Brazil, later won the Monrovia (G2) and narrowly missed in the Jenny Wiley (G1) and Buena Vista (G2), both around two turns. Whether Oleksandra can catch the speedy Jolie Olimpica is the big question in the Las Cienegas.

The main threat to oust the two heavyweights is Lighthouse, an up-and-coming filly who registered an 11-1 upset of the Music City S. at Kentucky Downs when last seen in September.