Life Is Sweet Starts New Season On Turf

Life Is Sweet Starts New Season On Turf
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
2009 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic winner Life Is Sweet switches to the turf in the San Gorgonio Handicap.
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Making her first start since a rousing triumph in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) eight weeks ago, Life Is Sweet returns to the turf for the first time in 18 months in the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Jan. 2.

The first graded stakes of the new year at Santa Anita, the 1 1/8-mile event attracted nine older fillies and mares.

Trained by John Shirreffs, Life Is Sweet, a 5-year-old Storm Cat mare, emerged from the shadow of stablemate Zenyatta when she came from 17 lengths behind to score a sensational 2 1/2-length triumph in the $2-million Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita Nov. 6.

Pam and Marty Wygod's homebred was transferred to Shirreffs’ care late in 2008 after residing in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in the East. While this will be her first start on grass in California, she won twice and had two seconds in five starts on grass while in Mott's barn. Her last turf start, May 31, 2008, resulted in a runner-up finish in the Sand's Point Stakes (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park.

In 2009, Life Is Sweet won three consecutive graded stakes on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface, capped by the Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) in March, before losing to Zenyatta three times and finishing third against males in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) July 11.

“Her campaign this summer was very difficult,” jockey Garrett Gomez said after negotiating the Breeders’ Cup upset at odds of 8-1. “When you run some tough races like she did, it will take something out of you. I’m glad they were able to get her confidence back.”
           
Gomez, who has ridden Life Is Sweet in each of her eight starts for Shirreffs, will be back at the controls.

“She’s training very well,” Shirreffs said. Life Is Sweet, who will break from post 4, is a lifetime earner of $1,770,810 from a 6-3-1 record in 15 starts.

Her top rival in the San Gorgonio is dual grade I winner Diamondrella, a 6-year-old Great Britain-bred mare making her second start for trainer Gary Stevens. Winner of Belmont's Just A Game (gr. IT) and Keeneland's First Lady (gr. IT), both at one mile, in 2009, she will be attempting the nine-furlong distance for the first time.

Following her 11th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in her final start for trainer Angel Pena Jr., the daughter of Rock of Gibraltar was turned over to Stevens by owner IEAH Stables. She ran third behind Ventura and Tuscan Evening in Hollywood Park’s Matriarch (gr. IT) Nov. 28, losing by 2 1/4 lengths.

Diamondrella, who has posted a career record of 8-2-2 in 19 starts with earnings of $820,576, and Life Is Sweet were each top-weighted at 122 pounds for the San Gorgonio. Alex Solis has the return call on the bay.

Mott saddles Treat Gently, a group II winner in France in 2008 for his new client, Juddmonte Farms. The British-bred 5-year-old daughter of Cape Cross has had two starts in the United States, winning an allowance race at Belmont Park in July prior to a sixth-place showing in Woodbine's 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT) Oct. 17. She set the pace in that race before tiring in the final furlong. Rafael Bejarano gets the mount.

Cat by the Tale looks to improve on back-to-back third-place finishes in Oak Tree's Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) on grass and Hollywood's Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) on synthetic for trainer Neil Drysdale.

The Argentina-bred Teamgeist, a grade II winner in her native country, attempts to bounce back from her sixth-place finish as the lukewarm favorite in the Bayakoa. From the Ken McPeek barn, the late-running 7-year-old daughter of El Catorce is winless in five North American starts, all against top company.

Trainer Bob Baffert is represented by Donald Dizney's stakes-winning Century Park, coming off a near-miss second after setting the pace in the Harold C. Ramser (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita Oct. 24.

Completing the field are Czechers, Lavender Sky, and Rosa Grace.

$150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), F&M 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Century Park (FL), T Baze, 116, B Baffert
2. Rosa Grace (GB), J Talamo, 114, B D Cecil
3. Treat Gently (GB), R Bejarano, 116, W I Mott
4. Life Is Sweet (KY), G K Gomez, 122, J A Shirreffs
5. Diamondrella (GB), A O Solis, 122, G L Stevens
6. Czechers (KY), C Sutherland, 115, M Glatt
7. Lavender Sky (KY), A Ajtebi, 114, J C Canani
8. Teamgeist (ARG), M E Smith, 116, K G McPeek
9. Cat by the Tale (KY), J Rosario, 115, N D Drysdale
Blinkers On: Rosa Grace, Lavender Sky
 

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