La Canada Lures Canadian Invader and Six Locals

by Margaret Ransom

The La Canada Stakes — traditionally the second of the three-race La Canada Series for distaffers — has been set for Saturday at Santa Anita Park. A field of seven has been drawn to race the 1 1/16 miles over the main track, including a well-traveled Manitoba-bred invader looking for her first win in the deeper stakes company of Southern California, and six talented local runners.

First contested in 1975 as the anchor of the series, which includes the La Brea Stakes (GI) in December and the now-defunct El Encino Stakes, the La Canada itself boats some impressive winners, including North American and/or Canadian Hall of Famers and champions Chris Evert, Glorious Song, Lady’s Secret and Jewel Princess, as well as notable names Mitterand, Exchange, Manistique, Got Koko, Balance, Life Is Sweet, Always A Princess, Vale Dori and Mopotism (last year).

Rest assured, the rain is coming. So, the chance of an off track by post time Saturday is good. Though the actual rainfall will subside by early afternoon, the amount expected to fall in the hours before will be sufficient to drench the surface and provide wet conditions.

It’s a rare thing that Southern California racing fans get to handicap for off-track conditions, so maybe the weather will also bring out some big prices. The La Canada is the day’s eighth race with a post time of 4:04 p.m. PT.

Don Schnell owns and trains the 5-2 favorite Escape Clause, who has run second (though boosted to the win via disqualification), third and fourth in stakes races on the turf at Del Mar and Santa Anita coming into this event.

The daughter of Going Commando (by Unbridled’s Song), who was a $3,800 yearling purchase, will surely be part of the early pace scenario and a return to the dirt, where she ran up a streak of eight consecutive victories in mostly stakes company should help, as will the somewhat softer competition. She has two wins from four starts at the distance, as well as an off-track win. Tyler Baze takes over the mount for the first time.

Grade 3 winner True Royalty makes her first start since a very troubled trip in the Raven Run Stakes (GII) at Keeneland three months ago. The John Sadler-trained daughter of Yes It’s True, who will have Joel Rosario back aboard, has never raced around two turns on the main track before, but probably found a decent spot to attempt it. She’ll probably get the pace she likes to stalk and, hopefully, she’ll have enough left in her tank for the stretch drive.

KP Royalty has finished in the money in three starts at the distance and, though the former New Mexico-based daughter of Include makes her first start in Southern California for trainer Jeff Mullins, she has never finished off the board at the distance and earned a win in one start on an off track. She will get a pace to run at, so, if the class jump isn’t too tough, she figures to have a decent shot of not only hitting the board, but also winning.

Bernina Star hasn’t won in a while, but in her defense she’s been facing some pretty tough competition. While this isn’t any more difficult, company-wise, than before, she will still need to show interest to be a factor. Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux rides for trainer Jim Cassidy.

Lightly raced Lemoona makes her fifth Southern California start for trainer Richard Baltas after beginning her career with Hall of Famer Bill Mott on the East Coast. She’s faltered in graded stakes recently, but the powerful combination of her trainer and jockey Flavien Prat has produced a lot of winners at the meet so far.

Stradella Road makes her graded stakes and turf debut off a third in the Lady of Shamrock Stakes on opening day. If she likes the main track, this would be the place to show it. She’s another that will most likely be part of the early pace scenario.

Exuberance hasn’t done a lot since breaking her maiden more than 15 months ago, mostly running in tough stakes company. She’s also so far proven to be mostly a sprinter and may struggle with the distance.

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