Fresh off what appeared to be the best race of her career on Dec. 3, California-bred Majestic Heat, along with classy comebacker Union Strike, head an outstanding field of eight older fillies and mares in Saturday's Grade II, $200,000 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita. The La Canada, which has been shortened from 1 1/16 miles to a flat mile, will be run for the 44th time on Saturday.
A newly turned 6-year-old daughter of Unusual Heat, Majestic Heat defeated classy Champagne Room by 2 ½ measured lengths in the Grade II Bayakoa Stakes going 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 3 at Del Mar and appears at the peak of her powers for trainer Richard Mandella.
A winner of the Grade I, seven furlong Del Mar Debutante in her second career start in September, 2016, Union Strike just missed in the Grade II Eight Belles going seven furlongs two starts back on May 5, 2017 at Churchill Downs.
Owner: Madeline Auerbach, LLC, Ron McCauley and Bardy Farm Trainer: Richard Mandella
A winner of five out of 14 starts on turf, including a pair of minor stakes, this daughter of the late Unusual Heat was transferred to the main track two starts back on Nov. 12 and she responded with a 3 ¼ length win versus statebreds in the seven furlong Betty Grable Stakes going seven furlongs. In her most recent outing, she stretched out to 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 3 at Los Alamitos and responded by winning her first graded stakes, the Grade II Bayakoa, earning a career-best 94 Beyer Speed figure in the process. Bred by Madeline Auerbach and Barry Abrams, upstart Majestic Heat will be ridden for the second consecutive time by “Big Money” Mike Smith and she's the horse to beat in the one mile La Canada. The top money earner in the field, she as a bankroll of $530,329 from an overall mark of 16-7-1-0.
Owner: Ruis Racing, LLC Trainer: Mick Ruis
A newly turned 4-year-old who showed flashes of brilliance at two and three, she followed her Debutante score with a sixth place finish in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and an even fifth in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Starlet at Los Alamitos in December, 2016. In her 3-year-old debut, she shortened back to 6 1/2 furlongs, taking the ungraded Santa Paula Stakes here on April 9, 2017 by 1 ½ lengths, earning a career-best 90 Beyer Speed figure. Ridden in her last three starts by Brice Blanc, Union Strike will be handled for the first time by Corey Nakatani. While question marks linger as to her affinity for two turns and a lack of recency, Union Strike has ample class and if ready, should prove plenty tough off the bench in what will be her eighth career start.
Owner: Reddam Racing, LLC Trainer: Doug O'Neill
Most recently third, beaten 2 ½ lengths by the mighty Unique Bella going seven furlongs in the Grade I La Brea Stakes here Dec. 26, Mopotism, who has been graded stakes placed on five occasions, will stretch out an eighth of a mile as she seeks her first graded stakes victory in the La Canada. A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by Uncle Mo, she ranks second in La Canada earnings with $441,200 and has an overall mark of 14-2-4-2.
Owner: John Fuller, STD Racing Stable or Neil Haymes Trainer: Doug O'Neill
A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Drosselmeyer, she pressed the pace en route to a 4 ¾ length win in the Zia Park Oaks going 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 22. Sandy's Surprise seeks her first graded stakes win in her 12th career start. Purchased out of a 2-year-old in training sale for $45,000 in May, 2016, she has earnings of $283,915 from an overall mark of 11-3-3-1. Ridden in New Mexico by Mario Gutierrez, she'll be handled for the first time by Rafael Bejarano in the La Canada.
THE GRADE II LA CANADA STAKES WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 8 of 9 Approximate post time 4 p.m. PT
1. La Force—Drayden Van Dyke–120
2. Majestic Heat—Mike Smith—124
3. Mended—Ricardo Gonzalez—120
4. Mopotism—Mario Gutierrez—120
5. Union Strike—Corey Nakatani—120
6. Resky Business—Evin Roman—120
7. Shenandoah Queen—Flavien Prat—120
8. Sandy's Surprise—Rafael Bejarano–120
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