The race with the biggest purse this weekend is the Santa Monica Stakes. The 7-furlong sprint is open to older fillies and mares, offering a purse of $200,000 as a GR2 stakes race. The dirt track at Santa Anita Park has served as the host of the Santa Monica Stakes since 1957.
The nine-horse field will be led by Ben’s Duchess who will head in to the Santa Monica Stakes boasting the most interest since she’s posted impressive times at this racing distance before. The John Sadler trainee ran an incredible 1:20.38 at the Angel’s Flight, finishing third, and 1:23.31 in the La Brea (GR1) while finishing 6th. The winning time for the last three renewals of this race has posted a winning time of 1:22+.
In fact, the last two winners have been trained by Jerry Hollendorfer who will submit Tiara’s Tango this weekend. Sired by Unbridled’s Song, the four-year old filly will drop down to the sprint category after turbulent runs at longer distances. Tiara’s Tango finished 10th at the Cotillion (GR1) but also placed second at the Summertime Oaks (GR2), both of which run at 1 1/16 miles. Interestingly enough, she’s bested Ben’s Duchess twice in sprints, placing second at the Angel’s Flight and and the Santa Paula. Hollendorfer’s recent history of wins at this race will undoubtedly generate intrigue with Tiara’s Tango at the Santa Monica Stakes.
The main issue for Tiara’s Tango is that her last two outings have seem uninspired and there’s a feeling around the track that she’s beginning to lose her competitive spark. So I wouldn’t automatically slip her in to the win just yet, though she’s performed better at sprints. There is a chance that competing against an old rival like Ben’s Duchess will bring out the best in her.
James Cassidy’s Prize Exhibit is another four-year old filly who is one to keep your eyes on. She blitzed the Monrovia Stakes (GR2) at a distance of 6 1/2 furlongs earlier this month and also placed a respectable 6th at the Matriarch Stakes (GR1) in late November last season. This will be her first race on dirt.
Room For Me and Living The Life head to Santa Anita with the most wins in the field, with each touting 9 apiece. The six-year old Room For Me recently showed third at the Interborough, while winning the Garland of Roses at Aquaduct last December. Gary Mandella’s Living The Life is also six years old this season and has been erratic at all distances. She placed 6th at the Goldikova Stakes after winning the Presque Isle Masters (GR2).
Lost Bus, Kiss at Midnight, Kyriaki and Finest City round out the order for the Santa Monica Stakes.