The $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT) should determine "Queen of the Hill" for the 2011-12 season at Santa Anita Park when Unzip Me and Mizdirection battle again on the hillside turf course at about 6 1/2 furlongs.
The undisputed hillside champ the past couple of years has been Unzip Me. But the 6-year-old mare, who has won seven of 11 races over the course including the 2010 Las Cienegas, has a serious challenger in Mizdirection.
Mizdirection, owned by popular sports talk personality Jim Rome's Jungle Racing and partners, handily defeated Unzip Me in the Monrovia Stakes (gr. IIIT) in January by nearly two lengths. Trained by Mike Puype, the 4-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast returned to the hillside Feb. 25 with a front-running 2 1/2-length score in the non-graded Clocker's Corner Handicap. She'll be seeking her fourth consecutive win.
“She’s a good filly and she’s on her way up,” Puype said of Mizdirection, who worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf course April 8 in a bullet 59 4/5.
Unzip Me, trained by Marty Jones and owned by Harris Farms and Donald Valpredo, who bred her, and partners, has also raced since finishing in a dead-heat for third in the Monrovia. The California-bred City Zip mare returned in the restricted Wishing Well Stakes Jan. 29 for a half-length victory. Unzip Me ran second in the 2011 Las Cienegas, losing by a neck to Separate Forest while toting 127 pounds, nine more than the winner.
Mizdirection and Unzip Me were each assigned top weight of 122 pounds.
Six older fillies and mares are entered in the Las Cienegas, which takes place as the eighth race at 4:07 p.m. PDT on the Saturday card.
Mizdirection came from off the pace in the Monrovia after chasing fast fractions, an indication that she's got some versatility. The gray/roan filly has five wins, three seconds, and one third in nine career starts. David Flores will ride her for the first time. Mizdirection drew favorably in post 5.
“Her turf sprints are all big," Puype said. "If you look at her turf record of seven starts, she’s five and two, but turf sprinting, she’s even better, with four wins and one troubled second. She’s found her home in the turf sprints, no doubt.”
Unzip Me, to be ridden by Joe Talamo, has the less desirable rail post. Rafael Bejarano has been the chestnut mare's regular pilot but he'll be in Arkansas on Saturday. Talamo is familiar with Unzip Me, winning five races with her. With $959,228 in career earnings, Unzip Me could surpass $1 million with a win in the Las Cienegas. She brings a lifetime mark of 14-4-4 into her 26th start and she has hit the board in 18 of her past 19 races.
Glen Hill Farm's Broken Dreams owns a pair of wins over Unzip Me, the most recent coming in a 5-1 upset in the Sen. Ken Maddy Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the hillside last Sept. 30. The other win came in a six-furlong allowance race on the Hollywood Park turf in July.
The 6-year-old Broken Vow mare is trained by Tom Proctor, who recently returned to California after spending the winter in south Florida. While Broken Dreams, who carries 119, has had some success, she has also lost to Unzip Me on three occasions. She will be ridden by Alonso Quinonez.
Teroda, a close second to Unzip Me in the Wishing Well, returns to stakes competition for trainer John Sadler following a nose victory on the hillside course in an allowance optional claiming event Feb. 17.
Saanneen has not been out since last June while the multiple stakes winner La Nez has not raced since finishing third in last year's Las Cienegas.
$100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.) Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Unzip Me (CA), J Talamo, 122, M F Jones
2. Teroda (KY), M Garcia, 116, J W Sadler
3. Saanneen (KY), E Flores, 114, L Powell
4. Broken Dreams (FL), A Quinonez, 119, T F Proctor
5. Mizdirection (KY), D R Flores, 122, M Puype
6. La Nez (CA), M A Pedroza, 116, J E Kruljac