Taris and Birdatthewire, who ended their respective 2015 campaigns on a high note with graded stakes wins around one turn, will stretch out around two turns Saturday for the $200,000 La Canada (G2) at Santa Anita.
First run in 1975, the 1 1/16-mile La Canada until this year was restricted to four-year-old fillies. Now open to mares five and older, like Taris, it is the first prep on the road to the $500,000 Santa Margarita (G1) on March 19.
Taris, who was unplaced in her only previous attempt around two turns, the 2014 Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn, has developed into one of the more effective female sprinters in the past year and a half. She concluded her sophomore campaign in 2014 with a nine-length romp in the Raven Run (G2) at Keeneland, and then was a half-length second in the La Brea (G1) over this track.
In an abbreviated 2015 campaign, Taris captured the Rancho Bernardo H. (G3) at Del Mar, finished third in the L.A. Woman (G3) and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), and last time scored by 2 1/2 lengths in the November 27 Go for Wand (G3) at Aqueduct going a mile.
Birdatthewire was a three-time graded stakes winner last season, taking the Forward Gal (G2) and Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) last winter and then capping her sophomore campaign with a 10-1 upset of the December 26 La Brea.
Although more experienced at the La Canada distance than Taris, Birdatthewire was unplaced in both attempts running outside her age group at Churchill Downs in November. In her defense, the Chilukki (G2) and Falls City H. (G2) were her first two races following an extended layoff.
Another leading La Canada contender is Yahilwa, whose lone win in seven starts last season came in the Sixty Sails H. (G3) at Hawthorne. The now six-year-old placed in three other stakes, including the Spinster (G1) and Clement L. Hirsch (G1), and last time weakened to sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) after disputing the pace.
Tara’s Tango could be a surprise factor in the La Canada is she were to run back to her second in last June’s Summertime Oaks (G2), which she lost by a nose to Eclipse Award finalist Stellar Wind. She was most recently fourth in the $98,000 Kalookan Queen over 6 1/2 furlongs.
Illuminant, a close fourth in the Monrovia (G2) on the turf earlier this month, is another potential threat if she can transfer her best grass form to the main track. Honey Ride, a multiple allowance winner over the Santa Anita strip, and outsider Oscar Party complete the field.
(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)