Gotta Have Her, who capped a superb 2009 season with a runner-up finish against males in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last fall, defends her title April 11 in the $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita hillside turf course.
This will be the first start since the Breeders' Cup for Gotta Have Her, who is trained by Jenine Sahadi for owner Green Lantern Stables. The 6-year-old daughter of Royal Academy was never better than last year, when she posted a 4-4-1 record in nine starts and earned nearly $600,000.
That sort of consistency makes her a clear standout in the Las Cienegas, which attracted a field of nine older fillies and mares to the hillside course event at about 6 1/2 furlongs. The Las Cienegas is the fourth race on the Santa Anita program with a probable post of 2:03 p.m. PDT.
Gotta Have Her won last year's Las Cienegas with a late rally to nose out Reba Is Tops. Back-to-back graded stakes wins later in the year in the Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar and Oak Tree's Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita led Sahadi to run Gotta Have Her against males over her favorite course in the Turf Sprint Nov. 7.
She responded brilliantly, overcoming traffic issues twice in the big field to rally from 12th. Still seventh with a furlong to run, she charged for the wire from between rivals but could not catch the front-running California Flag, who won by 1 3/4 lengths.
That was the only loss for Gotta Have Her in five starts on the downhill layout at Santa Anita. Overall, the strapping bay mare has a record of 8-7-3 in 24 lifetime races with earnings of $870,608. She drew post 7 and will have regular pilot Tyler Baze aboard while carrying high weight of 123 pounds.
Five months after her Breeders' Cup effort, Gotta Have Her faces a field that has no other graded winners, though several are coming into the race in good form.
Unzip Me, owned and bred in California by Harris Farms and partners, carries a three-race winning streak for trainer Marty Jones, most recently nailing her first stakes win in the Irish O'Brien Stakes for state-breds over the course March 20.
A speedy 4-year-old daughter of City Zip, Unzip Me defeated Las Cienegas foe U R All That I Am by a head in the Irish O' Brien. Breaking from post 3 in the Las Cienegas under Joe Talamo, she figures to be on the lead in a race that appears to have plenty of speed signed on. Unzip Me has won two of three starts on the hillside course and is a five-time winner overall in 10 lifetime races.
Also figuring to be part of the pace scenario are Czechers and Burg Berg. The latter broke her maiden over the course in front-running fashion in January 2009 and should be fresh for this after being on the sidelines since Del Mar.
Allen and Susan Branch's Czechers has been knocking on the door in search of her first graded win for some time. The Mark Glatt trainee has finished second in both of her tries over the course, including a neck loss to 'Cienegas rival Annihilation in the Clockers' Corner Handicap in her most recent start March 14. She was third behind the victorious Tuscan Evening in the Buena Vista Handicap (gr. IIT) before that.
The late-running Annihilation shipped to Louisiana for trainer Dan Hendricks prior to the Clockers' Corner and won the 5 1/2-furlong Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Stakes over a "good" Fair Grounds turf Jan. 23. She has won five of eight starts on turf in her career.
Zayat Stables's Jehan comes off a two-length win in an off-the-turf optional claiming allowance race Feb. 28 for trainer Mike Mitchell's hot barn.
$100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 4, 2:03 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Jehan (KY), M Garcia, 116, M R Mitchell
2. U R All That I Am (CA), M C Baze, 116, J Hollendorfer
3. Unzip Me (CA), J Talamo, 118, M F Jones
4. Lemon Supreme (KY), B Blanc. 114, D E Hofmans
5. Nadeshiko (KY), J Rosario, 117, J W Sadler
6. Czechers (KY), R Bejarano, 118, M Glatt
7. Gotta Have Her (KY), T Baze, 123, J Sahadi
8. Annihilation (KY), A O Solis, 119, D L Hendricks
9. Burg Berg (KY), M E Smith, 115, J P Gonzalez