The Grade 3, $100,000 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita Park drew a field of seven with only one of the group having won a graded stakes previously, that being True Royalty, who was victorious in the Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes last summer. Two mares, however, have proven very competitive in the past two years and appear to have the best chance to earn their first graded stakes victory. K P Wildcat is one of those, as she sports a 13-for-21 career record on the New Mexico circuit including two stakes wins from her last four races. Escape Clause is another who has shown a tremendous instinct to win and has backed that up with ability as she has an 18-for-27 career mark. Bernina Star is winless since May but did finish second over the track at the distance last June in the Santa Lucia Stakes so may have a say in the outcome as well. Lemoona earned her last win in July at the first allowance level before running poorly when fifth behind True Royalty in the Torrey Pines and fourth in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes. Exuberance and Stradella Road round out the field as both possess just a maiden win to date and appearing a bit overmatched.
K P Wildcat shipped into Santa Anita from New Mexico last week and put in a workout over the track to get familiar with it under the watchful eye of Jeff Mullins, who is listed as her trainer for the race. The mare comes back from just under two months away and won the Albuquerque Distaff Handicap off a similar layoff in August with the second-best Equibase Speed Figure (100) of her career. She won another stakes the next month before a runner-up effort in October and was shortened up to a sprint for her final start of 2018, where she finished third. Jockey Roimes Chirinos, one of the top jockeys on the New Mexico circuit which includes Sunland Park, Zia Park, and Ruidoso downs, has ridden K P Wildcat in 13 of her 21 career races, including nine of her 13 wins, and comes in to ride her in the La Canada which helps ensure another top effort good enough to win.
Escape Clause is another mare with an excellent winning spirit, evidenced by a 9-for-13 record in 2018 and an 8-for-11 record the previous year. Most of those races took place in Canada, but since coming to California in November she has held her own. When trying turf for the first time in the Kathryn Crosby Stakes in her Southern California debut, Escape Clause finished second but was awarded the win via a disqualification, before third- and fourth-place finishes in graded stakes. Her last three efforts yielded 105, 104, and 112 speed figures and her best previous effort on dirt earned her a 106 figure so Escape Clause has every right to be in the photo on the wire in this group.
True Royalty deserves respect as the only graded stakes winner in the field. In August at a mile on dirt, True Royalty earned a career-best 96 figure when winning the Torrey Pines Stakes easily by three lengths. After that, True Royalty tried and failed when sixth in a turf sprint. She then stepped up to Grade 2 company while trying some tough sprinters in the Raven Run Stakes, finishing 12th behind eventual Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Shamrock Rose. Considering the career-best effort and stakes win in the Torrey Pines came the only time True Royalty raced in a two-turn race on dirt, she must be considered strongly as a win contender in this year's La Canada Stakes.
The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Bernina Star (107), Exuberance (94), Lemoona (105), and Stradella Road (102).
K P Wildcat
You can get Ellis' detailed selections and analysis for the entire day of racing at Santa Anita HERE at Equibase and at most ADWs.