The Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap has been a prestigious race for older fillies and mares since 1935, when the race was open to three-year-old females and older; it was restricted to older fillies and mares beginning in 1938. The race was put on hold from 1942-1944.
Five horses have won the Santa Margarita twice, but no horses in the field this year are attempting that feat.
This year, the field lacks major star power, but does showcase a good mare named Taris. Taris has never been nine furlongs (1 1/8 miles) but is presently riding a two-race win streak, having successfully negotiated distances of one mile and 1 1/16 miles in her last two starts. On the negative side, Taris has not started since January. Her last two works have been good and she is the likely race favorite. Can she win going nine furlongs?
Godolphin and Kieran McLaughlin team up with their five-year-old mare, Penwith. Penwith is a daughter of Bernardini and a Touch Gold mare. She is also coming into the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap on a two-race win streak, but both of her last two wins came at Gulfstream — those being an allowance optional claiming race and the Grade II Royal Delta Stakes. However, what goes against Penwith is that she has run nine furlongs three times, being off the board (sixth, fourth and sixth) each time. She lost to horses like Snowbell, House Rules, In Tune, and Belle Gallantey. The competition in previous races is arguably better than what she faces here. Can she break her nine-furlong curse?
The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee, Tara’s Tango, enters the race off a good win in the Santa Monica Stakes, where she defeated a very good group of horses, including Birdatthewire and Living the Life, with the latter entered here as well. She does not need to be near the lead like a few others in the field and she looks like a good choice to be a second favorite in the field.
Living the Life is the speed here but usually fades in the stretch. She hasn’t won a major stakes race since coming over from Ireland. She is a two-time winner of the Grade II Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes, a six and one half furlong sprint race on the all-weather track at Preque Isle Downs. In both editions of the race, she came from off the pace, but since has been running as a frontrunner, which is unusual, since she has not won a race running on the pace since her transition to racing here in the States. Gary Mandella sends the filly out.
Other horses in the field include Lavender Chrissie, Moyo Honey, and All Star Bub. The race is set to run at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California. Post time is 4:30 p.m. Pacific on Saturday, March 19.