La Nez makes her first start in the $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes (gr. III) March 28 since finishing third to major Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) contenders Caracortado and Alphie's Bet three months ago.
The 6 1/2-furlong Pro-Ride event for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita also marks the return of Crisis of Spirit, who was progressing nicely late last year for trainer Bob Baffert before going to the sidelines following a stakes race at Hollywood Park Nov. 22. Seven are entered in the Santa Paula.
Jockey Mike Smith reunites with the Eric Kruljac-trained La Nez for the Santa Paula and he likes his chances on the 118-pound high weight.
“I’ve worked her every time since her last race (the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes on Dec. 26) and she’s training well. She was only a half-length behind Alphie’s Bet in that race and she gave weight to him,” Smith pointed out. “He came back and won the Sham (gr. III).”
In that race, which was at 1 1/16 miles, she went off as the 8-5 favorite and finished 2 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Caracortado, who went on to win the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II).
Owned by Class Racing Stables, Kruljac, and others, La Nez, a daughter of Storm Creek, won the California Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall with Smith aboard. She compiled a 2-2-2 record in six synthetic track starts in 2009, including a close third in the Darley Debutante (gr. I) at Del Mar. Kruljac also tried her in the one-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November, which resulted in a sixth-place finish.
La Nez, who likes to come from well off the pace, will break from the far outside post.
Mike Pegram's homebred Crisis of Spirit was favored in all four of her starts as a 2-year-old. She broke her maiden in her second race by 3 1/4 lengths at six furlongs during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita last October. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Vindication--Silverbulletway, by Storm Cat, returned a month later to capture Oak Tree's four-horse Anoakia Stakes at the same distance.
In her last start, Crisis of Spirit faded to fourth behind the victorious Bickersons after a wide trip in the Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park. She has been working at six and seven furlongs for Baffert, indicating a distance test could be in her near future. David Flores takes over for Smith on the dark bay filly and they will break from post 3.
A pair of fillies that are undefeated in two starts, Church Camp and Five Silver Stars, add spice to the Santa Paula.
Five Silver Stars, owned by Halo Farms, Three Sisters Thoroughbreds, and Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains her, broke her maiden by 10 lengths at Prairie Meadows last August.
The daughter of Five Star Day returned after a five-month absence to post a 1 1/2-length win over an optional claiming allowance field at Golden Gate Fields Jan. 16 at six furlongs. Five Silver Stars worked four furlongs on Pro-Ride March 25 in :49.20.
Legacy Ranch and partners' Church Camp got hjer first win against maiden claimers at Churchill Downs in November, then returned with a 1 1/4-length triumph in an optional claiming allowance at the Santa Paula distance Feb. 11 at Santa Anita. Brian Koriner trains the Forest Camp filly.
Tanda, trained by Dan Hendricks for Tommy Hutton's Dream Stable, is also coming off a win over an optional claiming field, overcoming a slow start to post a 1 1/4-length victory March 5 on the hillside turf course March 5.
Seriously, third behind Church Camp last time for Baffert, and unproven Sister Dawn, who will be handled by Rafael Bejarano for trainer John Sadler, complete the field.
$100,000 Santa Paula Stakes (gr. III, Race 7, 3:36 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 6 1/2 Furlongs (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Seriously (KY), V Espinoza, 114, B Baffert
2. Tanda (FL), A O Solis, 116, D L Hendricks
3. Crisis of Spirit (KY), D R Flores, 116, B Baffert
4. Five Silver Stars (KY), J Rosario, 114, J Hollendorfer
5. Sister Dawn (KY), R Bejarano, 114, J W Sadler
6. Church Camp (KY), J Talamo, 116, B J Koriner
7. La Nez (CA), M E Smith, 118, J E Kruljac
Blinkers On: Sister Dawn