Sunday's grade II La Cañada Stakes at 1 1/8 miles is shaping up to be a battle of titans. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Spain won the series opening La Brea Stakes Dec. 30 and if the Bob Baffert-trained El Encino winner Chilukki makes the lineup, then the La Cañada becomes a true rubber match of the three-race La Cañada series for 4-year-old fillies. "She's going to be entered," said Baffert. "Everything is good right now, I'm planning on running her. It all depends on her. She's got to be feeling good." Champion juvenile of 1999, Chilukki was allowed to set moderate fractions under Corey Nakatani in the El Encino while defeating odds-on favorite Surfside. Lukas said early on that he didn't want to run Surfside and Spain against each other this year, and, so far, Lukas has kept to that plan. Surfside is expected to resurface against older fillies and mares in the Grade I Santa Maria Handicap at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 18. "You hate to run them against each other when you have two nice fillies like that," said Lukas assistant Randy Bradshaw. Lukas said the prospect of facing the speedy Chilukki doesn't cause him any undue anxiety. "In all the stakes races around the country, I don't concern myself with who is going where," said Lukas. "I've never entered a race in my life where I considered the competition -- I'm too bad of a handicapper. Like with (3-year-old) High Cascade, I'm shipping him down to run in the Fountain of Youth (Gulfstream Park Feb. 17) and I have no idea who might be going in there."
Probables for the La Cañada Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, with jockeys: Spain, Victor Espinoza; Chilukki, Gary Stevens; Letter Of Intent, Laffit Pincay Jr.; Brianda, Matt Garcia, and High Walden, Kent Desormeaux. Possibles include: Crystal Sea, no rider, and Janet, Iggy Puglisi.