Saturday Stakes Preview: In The G2 La Canada at Santa Anita, favorite Taris stretches out to two turns


>>Go to the PPs for The La Canada| Post Time 3:30 PST Saturday

The Grade 2, $200,000 La Canada has attracted a field of seven older fillies and mares. They will be going a mile and 1 1/16 on the main track. With Beholder on the sidelines, it will be left to the three horses on the outside of the gate, Yahilwa, Birdatthewire, and Taris, to dominate the wagering.

According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, Yahilwa will have the early lead, with Taris stalking in second place and Illuminant in third place. However, in interviews, the trainers of Yahilwa and Taris have stated their opinion that it will be Taris on the lead, with Yahilwa trying to stalk. And Birdatthewire’s trainer, Tom Proctor, is no doubt hoping that both want the lead, as his late-running filly has the fastest Late Pace rating in the field (a 97).

Here is the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:

Tara’s Tango (4-1): 2 for 7 lifetime, her biggest win came in a bottom-level allowance, and her speed figures are heading in the wrong direction. Her trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, has been uncharacteristically cold. That will not last, but we don’t like Tara’s Tango at 4-1 or anything like it.

Illuminant (8-1):

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 11.28.11 AM

Gave a good account of herself (speed figure of 117) in a Grade 2 grass sprint down the hill. According to our Race Ratings, she is facing easier today. She is proven around two turns, too. The knock on her, and it’s a big one, is that to date, she has been more effective on grass than on dirt. But her Breeding Ratings do not indicate that this must remain the case, and she’s had only two tries on dirt, and in the second of those tries, she ran only three points slower than she did in her surrounding turf races. Her grass speed figures have been improving with each start. She figures to receive an inside stalking trip. If her odds are high enough, we can justify rolling the dice that her subpar dirt performances do not accurately reflect her ability on dirt.

Oscar Party (20-1): Too slow.

Honey Ride (12-1): Has lost her last three races by a combined 41+ lengths. And even going back to her lifetime best performance leaves her short in here.

Yahilwa (5-2): The most experienced horse in the field, with 31 starts under her belt, she has proven herself in Grade 1 company and earned her lifetime top speed figure of 121 at Santa Anita. More recently, she ran a superb third in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland (speed figure of 120). Then she went backwards a bit in the BC Distaff. Trainer Jim Cassidy gets only a 34 rating off layoffs of this duration. We are going to take the liberty, against the Pace Projector, of assuming that Mike Smith will not fight to keep Taris from clearing from the outside post. Yahilwa has shown that she can run well with a stalking trip. Yahilwa is a contender.

Birdatthewire (3-1): Late-running filly enters off a win in the Grade 1 La Brea, at seven furlongs over this surface on opening day. She earned a lifetime top of 110 for the effort. Making her first start for Tom Proctor today (84 rating first time with trainer), she is proven at the distance, and her ferocious late run in the La Brea is hard to get out of one’s mind. Horses do not often win with that sort of late explosion at Santa Anita. However, she will almost certainly need to improve her speed figure on the stretch-out (Proctor gets a 73 going sprint to route), and we’re not sure that the odds will justify playing for this sort of improvement.

Taris (2-1):

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 11.29.41 AM

6 for 10 lifetime, 9 for 10 in the trifecta, a Grade 2 winner who has twice run well in Grade 1s, Taris is the fastest horse in the field (figure of 127). She has run well at Santa Anita, almost taking the 2014 La Brea. She has reportedly been training well. We see her on the early lead. She enters off a strong victory (figure of 120) in a Grade 3 at Aqueduct. She is the horse to beat.

The Bottom Line:

We see Taris as the most likely winner. Illuminant is the longshot who interests us most.



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