There was no staying with Ellafitz in last month's Pasaena Handicap and trainer Bob Baffert's 5-year-old mare could get the same kind of trip in the $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 18 at Santa Maria.
Six older fillies and mares are set to tackle David and Ella Sivage's daughter of Tiznow in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Maria. But after her runaway 4 1/4-length triumph in the Jan. 15 Paseana at the same distance it looks like a tall order. The Santa Maria is race 8 on the Santa Anita card with a 4:07 p.m. PST post time.
Ellafitz is clicking for Baffert with three wins in her past four starts. The victories include a 3 1/4-length romp in the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track Dec. 4, also at 1 1/16 miles. It took Ellafitz 11 starts to win her first stakes in the Bayakoa. Her record now stands at 5-2-2 in 13 races with earnings of $277,957.
“She had little things that bothered her, but she’s getting better with age,” Baffert said recently.
Martin Garcia is once again aboard the bay mare, who drew post 2 while carrying top weight of 123 pounds, five more than each of her rivals.
If anyone can keep Ellafitz honest in the early going it's probably Jay Em Ess Stable's 5-year-old Vision in Gold. The Ron Elllis-trained Medaglia d'Oro mare won last year's Santa Maria in gate-to-wire fashion but has raced just twice since then.
In the Pasaena, her first start in 10 months, Vision in Gold was no match for the winner as the 9-10 favorite. She clearly needed the race, drifting out and weakening to sixth after stalking the leader to the far turn. Joel Rosario retains the mount on Vision in Gold, who drew the far outside post.
“It was a lot to expect, going two turns after a 10-month layoff,” Ellis said in assessing Vision in Gold's disappointing Paseana performance. “She got tired. There’s not much speed in Saturday’s race, but we’ve drawn the outside, so we’ll see what happens.”
Last year's Santa Maria triumph was the first in a stakes for Vision in Gold, who has won three of 10 starts lifetime. She gets a five-pound weight switch with Ellafitz for the Santa Maria.
Coudelaria Jessica Brazilian-bred Great Hot ran second to Include Me Out by 4 1/4 lengths in Santa Anita’s La Canada Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 22. The distance is a question for the 4-year-old daughter of Orientate whose last win came in Keeneland's Raven Run Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs last October. She makes her second start of the year for trainer A.C. Avila and will be ridden once more by Chantal Sutherland.
Miss Mittagong, a close third on the turf in the Robert J. Frankel Stakes (gr. IIT) in her most recent start Jan. 1, tries dirt for the first time for trainer Ben Cecil.
Also in the field are Spirit Seeker and Kayce Ace, third and fourth, respectively, in the Pasaena, and Love Theway Youare, fourth in the La Canada.
$200,000 Santa Maria Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), Fillies & Mare 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight Trainer
1. Spirit Seeker (KY), R Bejarano, 118, D F O'Neill
2. Ellafitz (KY), M Garcia, 123, B Baffert
3. Miss Mittagong (KY), M Gutierrez, 118, B D Cecil
4. Love Theway Youare (KY), A Quinonez, 118, M K Cho
5. Kayce Ace (KY), J Talamo, 118, E G Harty
6. Great Hot (BRZ), C Sutherland, 118, A C Avila
7. Vision in Gold (KY), J Rosario, 118, R W Ellis