Backing a Horse for the Course in Las Cienegas

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

The 44th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Las Cienegas Stakes on Saturday brings together a field of nine to race down the unique downhill sprint course at Santa Anita Park. In terms of class, Beau Recall jumps off the page although she has never run down this course. Beau Recall enters the Las Cienegas off four Grade 1 stakes races in a row on grass, with her best effort a nose defeat last summer in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks Presented by The Jockey Club. Coniah, who returns from a seven-month layoff, has run in two straight graded stakes, including a runner-up effort at this trip last May in the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes. Another horse with stakes credentials is Bendable, who is trying turf for the first time in her ninth career start. Not seen since October when fourth in the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes in Kentucky, Bendable won the Grade 3 Desert Stormer Stakes on dirt at Santa Anita last June. Miss Southern Miss won the Surfer Girl Stakes in the fall of 2016 on this course but is winless in four races since. Proper Discretion finished 12th of 14 in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint when last seen but won a pair of stakes for Ohio-breds only on dirt prior to that. Instant Reflex and Angel Allie both enter the race off wins down the hillside course in allowance races and hope to step up to the stakes level and remain competitive. Anita Partner finished third in the Monrovia just behind Coniah, and so she may have a say in the outcome. Princess Princess rounds out the field.

Coniah (left) racing in the Monrovia Stakes. (BENOIT photo)

Coniah comes back from seven months off and appears fresh, fit and ready to run well. She returned from a shorter layoff (three months) last March and finished fourth on the all-weather surface at Golden Gate Fields before running two exceptionally good races in a row down this hillside turf course. Last April in the first of the two, Coniah missed by a nose in the Mizdirection Stakes with a then career- best 108 Equibase Speed Figure, and she improved to an even better 112 figure when leading late and coming up a half-length short on the wire last May in the Monrovia Stakes. Following a runner-up effort on dirt last June behind Bendable, Coniah was given time off – and her two recent workouts, including one that was the fifth best of 72 on the day, suggest she's ready to return to competitive form in a stakes race. Kent Desormeaux rode her in two of those three runner-up stakes efforts and returns again for the Las Cienegas.

Beau Recall takes a significant drop in class to this Grade 3 stakes level following six straight Grade 1 or Grade 2 stakes. She wasn't disgraced in most of those races and was particularly competitive in two of them, first when missing by a neck in the Honeymoon Stakes last June, and then again when coming a nose shy of winning the Del Mar Oaks in August. After posting a fifth-place effort last month in the American Oaks Stakes (with a career best 112 figure) at a mile and a quarter, cutting back to this 6 ½-furlong trip could do Beau Recall a world of good from an advantageous outside post.

Anita Partner is the only horse in the field that has won twice at this unique downhill turf trip, those wins coming back-to-back last spring with 102 figures in both. She improved to a career- best 109 figure effort in her next start at the end of May when third in the Monrovia Stakes, finishing 1 ¼-lengths behind runner-up Coniah. Returning in a two-turn race in July, Anita Partner could not muster a late kick, but then when shortened up last August in the five-furlong Daisycutter Stakes, she finished fourth, beaten just 2 ½ lengths. Returning to the track and distance where she has proven competitive, Anita Partner may have a shot at earning her first stakes win.

The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Angel Allie (98), Bendable (108 on dirt), Instant Reflex (108), Miss Southern Miss (100), Princess Princess (99) and Proper Discretion (103 on dirt).

My Selections:


Beau Recall

Anita Partner

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