Santa Barbara, San Simeon Kick Off Final Santa Anita Weekend

Noches de Rosa goes after her third consecutive stakes win Saturday in the $250,000 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/4 mile on the Santa Anita turf.

Also Saturday at Santa Anita, a field of eight goes to the post in the $125,000 San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT) for older horses at about 6 ½ furlongs on the downhill turf course.

The 5-year-old Chilean-bred mare Noches de Rosa won the restricted Reloy Handicap at Saturday's 10-furlong distance on Jan. 31, and the Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/8 mile on March 22.

The daughter of Stagecraft faces five older fillies and mares this time. She drew co-high weight of 117 pounds and will break from the rail with jockey Mike Smith.

In the Santa Ana, Noches de Rosa was able to set an easy pace with Smith aboard and had enough to hold off closers Garden in the Rain and even-money favorite Megahertz by a half-length. She'll face both of those opponents again this time.

Now that she's got her head on straight, so to speak, Richard Mandella likes her chances.

"Her first few races were great, with just bad luck at Del Mar," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "The next two races here, she just got mixed up, mentally, and I took a little time, regrouped and she's come on well since."

Noches de Rosa has a 7-2-3 record from 18 starts, with earnings of $239,573 for the Diamond A Racing Corporation of Gerald A. Ford of Dallas.

Trained by Bobby Frankel, the talented Megahertz is a 4-year-old English-bred filly by Pivotal with a 6-3-3 record from 17 starts and earnings of almost $700,000 for owner Michael Bello. She has a 3-1-1 record from five starts on the Santa Anita turf course. The third-place finish in the Santa Ana, where she encountered traffic problems on the final turn, was her worst showing on the local lawn. She was second to stable mate Tates Creek in the San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT).

French bred Garden in the Rain continues to show improvement. Trained by the red-hot Jeff Mullins, the 6-year-old Dolphin Street mare comes off her best effort yet in the Santa Ana. She was boxed in at the rail turning for home yet still outkicked Megahertz while just missing the win. She finished second to Final Destination in the Buena Vista Handicap (gr. II) in February.

In the San Simeon, Thunder Bullet, who will be ridden by Alex Solis from the outside stall, blew out four furlongs Wednesday in :48.20 for trainer Mullins.

The race also marks the return of Juddmonte Farms' Speak in Passing. The 6-year-old Danzig horse, trained by Frankel, is making his first start in more than 15 months.

Speak in Passing, who was assigned high weight of 118 pounds and will be ridden by David Flores, was second in both the Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita and the Hollywood Turf Express (gr. IIT) in November 2001. He has four wins and six seconds in 12 career starts with earnings of $202,278.

$250,000 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT), fillies & mares 4 & up, 1 1/4 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Wgt., Jockey
1. Noches De Rosa (CHI), 117, Mike E. Smith
2. Trekking (KY), 111, Tyler Baze
3. Garden in the Rain (FR), 116, Gary L. Stevens
4. Notting Hill (BRZ), 114, Anthony J. Lovato
5. Megahertz (GB), 117, Alex O. Solis
6 Medinaceli (IRE), 110, Matt S. Garcia

$125,000 San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT), 4 & up, about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf
PP. Horse, Wgt., Jockey
1. Line Rider (KY), 113, Patrick A. Valenzuela
2. Canny Fly (AUS), 111, Mike E. Smith
3. Speak in Passing (KY), 118, David Romero Flores
4. Rocky Bar (AZ), 114, Gary L. Stevens
5. Los Solano (GB), 113, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
6. Spinelessjellyfish (CA), 115, Matt S. Garcia
7. Ecstatic (KY), 116, Corey S. Nakatani
8. Thunder Bullet (FL), 114, Alex O. Solis