Favored Taris made short work of her competition in Saturday's Grade II, $200,000 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita, as she took command mid-way around the far turn under Gary Stevens and cruised to a 5 ¼ length victory while getting 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.38.
Trained by Simon Callaghan, the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Flatter sat a comfortable third leaving the half mile pole and engaged dueling leaders Illuminant and Yahilwa approaching the three furlong pole.
“It was a perfect trip,” said Stevens. “It set up, the fractions were realistic and when Mike (Smith, aboard second choice Yahilwa) came up on the outside of me going into the far turn, the pressure really picked up.
“She reminds me of Beholder. She has the same tendencies, the same high cruising speed and they're both very intelligent. She deserved this today.”
In a race reduced to five older fillies and mares due to the game-day declarations of Tara's Tango and Honey Ride, Taris, who was well beaten in her only other career try going two turns, was heavily favored at even money and paid $4.00, $260 and $2.10.
Owned by John Magnier, Derrick Smith or Michael Tabor, Taris followed up on a 2 ½ length score going a one turn mile in the Grade III Go for Wand Handicap Nov. 27 at Aqueduct and registered her seventh win from 11 career starts. With the winner's share of $120,000, she increased her earnings to $807,700.
“I was a little anxious down the backside when she just took hold of the bridle a little bit,” said Callaghan. “She's such a smart filly. She just dropped it then and relaxed. I kind of knew there were no worries about the distance.
“Gary knows this filly, not quite as good as me, but almost. I left it to him. It was one of those races with five runners where I didn't know where the pace would be. I thought someone might try to take us on, so we just left it to Gary to see how the race unfolded.”
Ridden for the first time by Drayden Van Dyke, Birdatthewire, who was stretching out off a half length win in the Grade I, seven furlong La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26, was bothered by longshot Oscar Party going into the first turn.
“I was completely taken out by Santiago (Gonzalez, aboard Oscar Party),” said Van Dyke, in reference to the fact that Oscar Party's bridle broke, leaving Gonzalez rudderless. “I didn't know what was happening at first. He came flying by me, which made my horse get really rank. Poor Santiago though, it wasn't his fault, but I got stuck outside of him and he was way out there.”
Despite the trouble, Birdatthewire was a close second going into the far turn, but fell far back straightening for home due to the fact she has a habit of getting out. Although she appeared hopelessly beaten a furlong from home, she rallied wide-out for second, finishing 1 ¼ lengths in front of Yahilwa.
Off at 7-2, Birdatthewire paid $3.40 and $2.20.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Yahilwa pressed the pace and tired late to finish a half length in front of Illuminant. Off at 9-5, Yahilwa paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.93, 47.35, 1:11.71 and 1:37.51.
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