Spain Defeats Chilukki in La Canada Series Finale

Spain Defeats Chilukki in La Canada Series Finale
Photo: Associated Press/Benoit Photo
Spain and jockey Victor Espinoza, defeating Chilukki in the La Canada.
From Santa Anita
Spain blew past High Walden on the last turn and proved too much for Chilukki in the stretch as she registered a two-length victory Sunday in the $200,000 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies at Santa Anita Park.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza at high weight of 122 pounds, Spain ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.74 on a fast main track and paid $5.20, $2.40 and $2.10. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas conditions the winner for The Thoroughbred Corp.

Chilukki, the 9-to-10 favorite ridden by Gary Stevens at 119 pounds, attempted to challenge the winner in the stretch, but settled for second place and paid $2.40 and $2.10. It was 2 1/2-lengths back to Letter Of Intent, Laffit Pincay Jr. riding at 116 pounds, and a $2.10 show payoff. Brianda and High Walden completed the order of finish.

A Kentucky-bred by 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch, Spain has a 7-6-3 record from 21 starts. The $120,000 winner's share increased her earnings to $2,283,335.

The victory gave Spain two of three legs of the La Canada Series for fillies foaled in 1997. Spain won the Grade I La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs on Dec. 30, but finished second as Chilukki won the Grade II El Encino Stakes on Jan. 21. The rubber match, the Grade II La Canada, belonged to Spain.

Spain raced in a stalking position inside as High Walden set the pace through fractions of :23.67, :47.89 and 1:11.40. The winner split horses on the last turn, with Chilukki also mounting a bid while racing three-wide. Spain entered the stretch with a 1 1/2-length advantage and edged clear under steady handling.

"I had a very good trip for this race," Espinoza said. "I knew Chilukki was behind me and I was just waiting for her. I was a little bit surprised when Chilukki came and put the pressure on us, but I had confidence in my filly. I didn't have to worry about when I moved. I knew I had plenty of horse today."

Lukas said the added distance in the La Canada worked in Spain's favor. "A mile and an eighth is obviously a very good distance for Spain," he said. "That's where her greatest win (a 55-to-1 upset in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff) has come and it's well within her scope."

Lukas mentioned the $300,000 Santa Margarita Handicap on March 10 as a possible next start for Spain.

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