Astra Finds Santa Ana is Tough Spot for Return Race

Astra, scratched from her return engagement in the Feb. 18 Buena Vista Handicap due to a skin condition, will return from a seven-month layoff in Saturday's Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita. The Santa Ana will be her first start since finishing ninth in the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) last August.

"I'm looking at (the Santa Ana) simply as her first race in a long time," trainer Laura DeSeroux said. "I just want a nice comeback race."

Of the skin problem, DeSeroux said: "It was a staph infection. We cultured it, zeroed in on it, and antibiotics cleared it up in five days."

The 6-year-old mare has won eight of 11 career starts, including two grade I races, but the Santa Ana is no easy spot as the starting gate will also be populated by grade I winners Janet, Tout Charmant, Golden Apples, and Starine.

"This is the race of the meet," said Santa Anita stakes coordinator Rick Hammerle. "We've got the top five turf fillies in the country."

Trainer Ron McAnally agreed with Hammerle's assessment of the field.

"It's a Grade I race (in quality), no question," said McAnally, who conditions Tout Charmant. "They're all good fillies, but our filly is doing good and that's all we can hope for. She had a good work the other day and she couldn't be doing any better."

The field for the Santa Ana will consist of:

1--Catz, Danny Sorenson, 112
2--Desiraes My Candy, Laffit Pincay Jr., 114
3--Astra, Kent Desormeaux, 122
4--Starine, John Velazquez, 122
5--Tout Charmant, Chris McCarron, 122
6--Impeachable, Corey Nakatani, 113
7--Janet, David Flores, 120
8--So Wistfullee, Brice Blanc, 112
9--Golden Apples, Garrett Gomez, 119