The Older Set Takes Over the Stakes Spotlight at Santa Anita, Gulfstream

Last week, the sophomores stole the stakes spotlight. This week, the older horses seize the stakes spotlight, dim as it may be this weekend.

Fighting Mad-Weekend stakes
At 10/1, Fighting Mad captured the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes last May over Hard Not To Love. The two mares meet again in Saturday’s Grade 3 La Cañada Stakes at Santa Anita Park. (Image: Benoit Photo)

Yes, this weekend’s stakes schedule doesn’t scream “high profile.” After all, 2021’s first Grade 1s are still two weeks away. But it does raise its voice with highly recognizable horses running in two Santa Anita Park Grade 3s for older fillies and mares. Gulfstream Park chimes in with a Grade 3 turf stakes for older horses.

Santa Anita’s first stakes this weekend is the Las Cienegas on the Santa Anita turf. The $100,000, six-furlong race sends its seven contestants through the track’s new turf chute for the first time. Two of those contestants ring bells as they meet again: defending champion Jolie Olimpica and her rival Oleksandra.

The second is the $200,000 La Cañada Stakes. Bob Baffert’s Fighting Mad leads a seven-filly/mare contingent 1 1/16 miles on Santa Anita’s main track. Waiting for her, among others, is Grade 1 winner Hard Not To Love, who gets new rider Ricky Gonzalez.

Gulfstream Geezers Find Stakes Spotlight

Gulfstream’s lone stakes race of consequence is the Tropical Turf for 4-year-olds and up — emphasis on the “up.” Several 6-year-olds highlight the field. Hall of Fame trainers Chad Brown, Mark Casse and Shug McGaughey all send runners out for this mile jaunt on the Gulfstream turf.

OG News takes a closer look at this weekend’s stakes spotlight.

Grade 3 Las Cienegas, Saturday, Santa Anita

Brazilian-bred Jolie Olimpica introduced herself to US racing fans here last year, winning this race en route to a two-win, two-place 2020 campaign. The Richard Mandella-trained 5-year-old won this race and the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes, finishing second in the Grade 2 Buena Vista and the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley. According to Equibase, the Las Cienegas was Jolie Olimpica’s slowest race of the year – a 111 Equibase Speed Figure. Waiting for her is Oleksandra, seeking redemption after a ninth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. That ended an eight-race, in-the-money streak. The now-7-year-old also seeks revenge after Jolie Olimpica beat her by a half-length in the Monrovia. Seeking a piece here is Acting Out, angling for her third consecutive win.

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Grade 3, La Cañada, Saturday, Santa Anita

Every horse in this deep, seven-horse field comes with familiarity. Three of these horses ran in the Grade 2 Zenyatta Stakes in September: second-place Hard Not To Love, third-place and 2/5 favorite Fighting Mad and fourth-place Proud Emma. The latter rebounded from that last-place finish to win the Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes at Los Alamitos. There, she beat Baffert’s Message by a half-length and fourth-place Miss Stormy D by 9 ½ lengths. Both return, along with Chilean Group 1 winner Sanenus.

Grade 3 Tropical Turf, Saturday, Gulfstream

You’ve got 6-year-old Admission Office returning after a six-month break and the Casse-trained Ride A Comet returning after running only twice in 2020. Both of those races – his first since 2018 — put the 6-year-old Ride A Comet in the winner’s circle. That’s where we last found Admission Office. He won the 1 ½-mile Grade 3 Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs in June. Turf maestro Brown sends out Analyze It, another 6-year-old who won twice last year – after missing the previous 22 months. Defending champion Tusk returns. After winning this race last year, Tusk missed the next 11 months before finishing eighth in the Claiming Crown Emerald Dec. 8. McGaughey’s 8-year-old Doctor Mounty actually ran last year – five times. This will be his 38th career start.

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