Great Britain-bred St Trinians recorded her fourth open-length victory in succession since arriving in the United States and soundly defeated Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) winner Life Is Sweet in the $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 13 (VIDEO).
Next up for the razor sharp 5-year-old mare is likely a date with Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita Invitational (gr. I) March 13 over the same course at nine furlongs, according to winning trainer Mike Mitchell.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, St Trinians stalked a slow pace in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Maria and out-kicked Life Is Sweet in the lane to score by 1 3/4 lengths in a smart time of 1:41.73 on the Pro-Ride main track. St Trinians, who carried 116 pounds, went off as the slight 6-5 choice over the 123-pound high weight Life Is Sweet in a field reduced to six by three scratches.
“You just want your horse to be sharp and she was razor sharp," Mitchell said. "She’s just training so well. I knew I had a good mare to beat (Life Is Sweet) and maybe I beat her with the pace. She ran like I thought she would run."
St Trinians, a three-time winner on synthetic tracks at Wolverhampton in England, won in her graded stakes debut for Southern California owners Dan Capen and Laura Chavers. Victorious by 3 3/4 lengths in the Paseana Handicap in her last start Jan. 9, she has won seven of 10 starts on synthetic tracks.
“It would be fun," Mitchell said of possibly meeting Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita. "I ran against her a while ago with Romance is Diane and all we did was look at that big brown rear end go by us. This filly (St Trinians) is a quality filly. Nobody respects Zenyatta more than me so if I can beat her that would be a notch in my belt buckle.”
Life Is Sweet, second to stablemate Zenyatta in voting for the 2009 Eclipse Award for champion older filly or mare, was making her first start since her scintillating come-from-behind win in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic Nov. 6. She became the sixth Breeders' Cup winner to lose in her first start back.
Without much pace signed on after the scratch of Czechers, the race did not set up well for Life Is Sweet, who lagged at the back of the field as outsider Once Upon A Grace took the early lead from Zardana and carved easy fractions of :23.98 and :48.03 while on a six-length lead. That edge evaporated quickly after that, though, as Zardana took over at the six-furlong point in 1:12.47, with Mushka and My Baby Baby in close pursuit. St Trinians continued to stalk in fourth as Life Is Sweet made her bid from the back coming into the stretch.
St. Trinians, four wide and charging on the outside of the leaders, flashed a great turn of foot to get the lead inside the eighth pole. Under some left-handed urging from Rosario she quickly took command and won with something left.
“I wanted to keep her outside, because when those other horses stopped, I didn’t want to have to slow her down," said Rosario, who has ridden St Trinians in her last three races. "Once she gets rolling, I don’t want to get her stopped. She’s a real nice little filly and she always tries hard. She ran huge last time and she did again today.”
Life Is Sweet finished up well to edge 19-1 shot My Baby Baby by a half-length for second while not seriously threatening the winner.
Brazilian-bred Zardana, coming off a victory in the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park Dec. 5, finished fourth. Mushka, second to Life Is Sweet in the Breeders' Cup, faded to fifth, with Once Upon A Grace last.
St Trinians made her American debut last March at Santa Anita, winning an optional claiming allowance by four lengths. She returned to action at Hollywood Park Dec. 3, whipping second-level allowance foes by seven lengths and followed that up with her lopsided win in the Paseana five weeks later. She earned $150,000 for the Santa Maria triumph, boosting her career purse total $268,587 while recording a 7-0-3 mark in 11 races.
By Piccolo out of Cherrycombe-Row (by Classic Cliche), the bay mare was bred by Mrs. E.L. Hunter.
The winner paid $4.60, $2.60, and $2.60 while topping an $11.40 exacta. Life Is Sweet, who lost for just the second time in six starts over the Santa Anita main track, returned $2.40 and $2.40. My Baby Baby, trained by Ken McPeek, was $11.40 to show.
Pretty Unusual, who is entered in the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 14, and Spring Style were also scratched.