ARCADIA, Calif. — George Krikorian’s multiple graded stakes winning homebred Mucho Unusual heads a solid field of eight older fillies and mares going a mile and one quarter on turf in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Santa Ana Stakes at Santa Anita.
Voted California-bred Horse of the Year for 2020 by the CTBA, Mucho Unusual will be tackling sharp recent allowance winner Tapwater, promising French-bred Neige Blanche, Irish-bred Red Lark and long-fused French-bred Altea in what shapes up as a terrific betting race.
A two-time graded stakes winner at the current meeting for trainer Tim Yakteen, Mucho Unusual, a 5-year-old mare by Mucho Macho Man, out of the Unusual Heat mare Not Unusual, comes off a solid second going one mile on turf behind rising star Charmaine’s Mia in the Grade II Buena Vista on Feb. 20 and will appreciate the additional quarter mile on Saturday.
A winner of the Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes at a mile and one quarter on turf five starts back here on Sept. 26, Mucho Unusual also has a second place finish at the trip from three overall tries. Ridden by four different jockeys in her last four races, she’ll handled by leading man Flavien Prat. The leading money earner in the field with $862,715, Mucho Unusual, a four-time graded stakes winner, has an overall mark of 20-7-4-4.
Trained by Richard Mandella, Tapwater, in her first start since Oct. 16, stalked the early pace and prevailed by a neck under Prat in a one mile turf allowance here on Feb. 12. Lightly raced, this 5-year-old LNJ Foxwoods homebred mare by Tapit has won two out of her last five starts, all at one mile on grass. With Prat opting to ride likely favorite Mucho Unusual, Mike Smith takes over as Tapwater tries a mile and one quarter for the first time in what will be her first stakes assignment. With three wins and two seconds from eight overall starts, she has earnings of $142,940.
One of two Leonard Powell-trained entrants, Neige Blanche has been idle since well beaten in the Grade I American Oaks at 1 ¼ miles on turf Dec. 26. A handy Group III winner going 1 3/8 miles on turf in her final French start on June 6, 2020, she showed ample promise in her first two stateside appearances, a close fourth in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks Aug. 22 and a third place finish in the Grade I Belmont Oaks Sept. 19.
A maiden victress going a mile and one quarter on synthetic in her second start at age two, Neige Blanche is proven at the distance and would appreciate a fast pace when ridden for the first time by Juan Hernandez on Saturday. Owned by Madaket Stables, LLC, Laura DeSeroux, Marsh Naify and Mathilde Powell, Neige Blanche, a 4-year-old filly, has three wins from nine career starts.
Trained by Paddy Gallagher and owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, 4-year-old Irish-bred Red Lark comes off an even fifth place finish in the Grade II Buena Vista Feb. 20. An upset winner of the Grade I Del Mar Oaks four starts back, she ran a solid fourth in the Grade I American Oaks on opening day and is another who would benefit from a lively pace. Handled in her last seven starts by Drayden Van Dyke, she’ll be ridden by Ricky Gonzalez on Saturday.
Winless in five Irish starts, Red Lark has two wins from nine stateside starts as she seeks her second stakes victory in the Santa Ana.
Previously trained by eastern-based Chad Brown, French-bred Altea finished well when beaten 2 ¾ lengths by Mucho Unusual in her first start for Michael McCarthy, the Grade III, 1 1/8 mile turf Robert J. Frankel Stakes on Dec. 27. Subsequently third going a mile and one half on turf in the Grade III Astra Stakes Jan. 17, Altea will be ridden for the third consecutive time by Abel Cedillo and is the only horse shortening up in distance on Saturday.
THE GRADE III SANTA ANA STAKES Race 9 of 9, Approximate post time 5 p.m. PT
1. Mucho Unusual—Flavien Prat—124
2. Silberpfeil—Tyler Baze—122
3. Going to Vegas—Umberto Rispoli—120
4. Tapwater—Mike Smith—120
5. Red Lark—Ricardo Gonzalez—122
6. Neige Blanche—Juan Hernandez—122
7. Altea—Abel Cedillo—120
8. Colonial Creed—Mario Gutierrez–120
First post time for a nine-race card on Saturday is at 1 p.m. All of Santa Anita’s races are offered free of charge at santaanita.com/live and fans can wager at 1st.com/bet. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
Photo: Mucho Unusual (Benoit)