After notching her first graded victory in the Santa Maria, Iotapa will attempt to make it two straight in Saturday's Grade 1, $350,000 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita. The four-year-old filly heads a field of eight distaffers in the 1 1/8-mile event.
Iotapa proved to be a savvy claim from her debut, being haltered from a $50,000 maiden claiming win at Hollywood Park in June 2012. She was sidelined for nearly eight months afterward, returning with a victory over allowance rivals, and the John Sadler charged followed with a good second to Beholder in her stakes debut, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks last April. The dark bay daughter of Afleet Alex went on to record a win in the Railbird and a second in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks before completing her three-year-old season with a third in the grassy Grade 2 San Clemente at Del Mar.
After opening 2014 with a rallying second in the Grade 2 Santa Monica, Iotapa put it all together in the Grade 2 Santa Maria on February 15, leading wire to wire for a comfortable 1 3/4-length decision. She netted a career-best 97 BRIS Speed rating last time and will look to keep moving forward in her third start off the layoff Saturday. Joe Talamo retains the mount.
Fiftyshadesofhay will look to rebound from a troubled fourth in the Grade 2 La Canada as the favorite.
"It definitely cost me the race," previous jockey Mike Smith said of the rough start in which Fiftyshadesofhay was bumped hard and forced to check when the gates opened.
Conditioned by Bob Baffert, the four-year-old Pulpit filly possesses the top Speed ratings in the field, earning numbers as high as 104 last season, and captured the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in her lone attempt at the nine-furlong distance. Martin Garcia picks up the mount.
Spellbound exits a 16-1 upset in the La Canada for Richard Mandella. Victor Espinoza will ride the confirmed closer. Let Faith Arise will enter on the upswing for Jerry Hollendorfer, posting runner-up finishes in the Santa Maria and La Canada. The four-year-old filly shows a recent six-furlong bullet work in preparation and keeps Corey Nakatani in the saddle.
Hollendorfer will also send out Macha, who exits an allowance win at Santa Anita in her dirt debut. Stanwyck and Yahilwa, the respective third- and fourth-place finishers in the Santa Maria, are both entered and Argentinean Group 1 queen Miss Serendipity rounds out the line-up.
Earlier on the program, seven fillies and mares will sprint about 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill in the $100,000 Irish O'Brien. Favoritism could go to Ciao Bella Luna following her victory in the Sunshine Filly and Mare Turf Sprint on January 25.