A compact, but excellent, field of five will contest Sunday’s $200,000 Santa Maria (G2) on Sunday. The Santa Anita feature pits two of the top California-based distaffers in training in what figures to be a thrilling affair.

Santa Maria Analysis

#3 Fighting Mad is the clear pace of the race and will dictate things from the start under Abel Cedillo.

Santa Maria Contenders

#1 HARD NOT TO LOVE (9-5) — Superb filly had a two-race graded stakes win streak stopped when second-best in the Beholder Mile (G1) last time out. High-class Hard Spun 4-year-old is training like a lass sitting on a big race, capped by a recent five-furlong bullet on the surface. Mike Smith will guide the versatile Kentucky-bred.

#2 CE CE (3-5) — Rapidly ascending daughter of Elusive Quality rides in with two wins in succession following triumphs in the Beholder Mile (G1) and Apple Blossom (G1). McCarthy trainee dons a sharp 4-3-1-0 mark at Santa Anita, and the 1 1/16-mile distance seems ideal at this stage of her development. Victor Espinoza rides the star.

#3 FIGHTING MAD (6-1) — Baffert trainee stretches out from a sprint as the one to catch in the Santa Maria. New Year’s Day speedster was an eight-length winner of the Torrey Pines (G3) in her lone route attempt to date, and she might get very brave late if able to establish modest fractions early on.

#4 HOROLOGIST (8-1) — Grade 3 heroine has yet to run her best race since coming to conditioner Richard Baltas. Gemologist filly had trouble when a useful sixth in the deep Apple Blossom most recently, and improvement is expected today with Flavien Prat in the stirrups. Bay will stalk the pace from the opening bell.

#5 KAYDETRE (20-1) — David Randall charge was a sharp allowance winner on the oval in advance of her most demanding test to date. Mizzen Mast mare wheels back on short rest, and it would be a surprise if she were able to duplicate her performance from last week against these. 

Santa Maria Wagers

  • $40 Win: #1 Hard Not To Love ($40)