Ellafitz vs. 'Gold' in Santa Maria
Updated: February 17, 2012, 11:20 AM ETBy Steve Anderson | Daily Racing Form
ARCADIA, Calif. -- There were 11 1/2 lengths between Ellafitz and Vision in Gold at the finish of the minor Paseana Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 15. The win gave Ellafitz her second consecutive victory. She will be favored in Saturday's $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes over 1 1/16 miles. The loss by Vision in Gold left trainer Ron Ellis disappointed, but anxious for the Santa Maria, which Vision in Gold won in 2011. "I think she needed the race last time," Ellis said. "That's the only reason I can come up with. "She's doing awesome. She's trained really well." Owned by Samantha Siegel, Vision in Gold returned from a 10-month layoff in the Paseana. Sent off as the 9-10 favorite, she was third to the turn before fading through the stretch to finish sixth in a field of seven. Vision in Gold never got close to Ellafitz, who led throughout. Vision in Gold will need a top performance to beat Ellafitz, who may not face an early threat on the lead. Vision in Gold led throughout the 2011 Santa Maria, but closed from last to win an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles in December 2010. "She can go either way," Ellis said. "She can lay close." Trainer Bob Baffert said there is no secret to Ellafitz's racing strategy. "You've got to let her go," he said. The style of racing has led to the best form of Ellafitz's career, with wins in three of her last four starts. The most prestigious win during that span was a victory in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park on Dec. 4. In the Paseana, she won by 4 1/4 lengths under jockey Martin Garcia, who has the mount in the Santa Maria. Owned by Dave and Elia Sivage, Ellafitz, 5, has won 5 of 13 starts and $277,957. "She's getting better with age," Baffert said. The Santa Maria drew a field of eight, including Miss Mittagong, second to Ellafitz in the Bayakoa; Spirit Seeker, third in the Paseana; and Great Hot, who has placed in two graded stakes at this meeting. Trained by A.C. Avila, Great Hot was third in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes behind the Ellis-trained Teddy's Promise on Dec. 31 and second in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes behind the Ellis-trained Include Me Out on Jan. 22. Teddy's Promise is being kept in sprints, while Include Me Out will start in the $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes on March 17. Once again, Avila has to face another Ellis-trained contender in Vision in Gold. "He's following me, the sonofagun," Avila said of his fellow trainer. The winner of two stakes last year, including the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes over seven furlongs at Keeneland last fall, Great Hot is probably best in a one-turn race, Avila said. "I think she can go a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and an eighth, but I think she has the best number going one-turn," he said. "She's doing good and she feels good. She goes in there with no excuse."
MORE HORSE RACING HEADLINES
- Enhanced security measures set for Belmont
- Over 100 horses feared dead after OK tornado
- Preakness champ Oxbow pointed to Belmont
- Oxbow wins Preakness; Orb finishes fourth