Upsets were the rule in both Grade 3 events at Santa Anita Saturday, with breakout performances from fresh faces on the circuit. The 7-1 Sanenus romped in the $201,000 La Canada Stakes (G3) after 4-5 favorite Fighting Mad succumbed to early pressure. Then in the $99,000 Las Cienegas Stakes (G3), Oleksandra lost the rider a few strides out of the gate, and Charmaine’s Mia sprang a 16-1 surprise over even-money Jolie Olimpica.
La Canada Stakes
A champion in her native Chile, Sanenus was scoring her first North American victory following a trio of placings, most recently a second to Finite in the Nov. 21 Chilukki (G3) at Churchill Downs. The Mike McCarthy trainee stretched out to two turns here, and working out a garden trip with Umberto Rispoli, she revealed herself as a force in the distaff division.
As expected, Fighting Mad broke alertly with intent to lead, but Hard Not to Love was sent through on the inside to grab control. A half-length up after an opening quarter in :23.30, Hard Not to Love then deferred to Fighting Mad who asserted herself at the half in :46.37. Hard Not to Love, now repositioned on the outside, attacked again nearing the far turn.
Meanwhile, Sanenus had been parked in third watching the market leaders try to outwit each other. Rispoli turned her loose just as Hard Not to Love was re-engaging Fighting Mad, and Sanenus clearly had much more up her sleeve than either of them.
Striding ahead at the 6-furlong mark in 1:11.28, Sanenus blew the race open down the lane. The Scat Daddy mare widened her margin to six lengths, despite coasting late to finish 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.44.
Fellow stalker Miss Stormy D, who raced in second for much of the stretch, just held that spot by a nose from a resurgent Hard Not to Love. There was a 6 1/2-length gap back to turf/synthetic performer Never Be Enough, fourth in her dirt debut. Next came Fighting Mad, Proud Emma, and Message.
“I’ve been on her several times in the morning,” Rispoli told Santa Anita publicity. “I knew she was a very good filly. Today, I asked her a bit at the half-mile pole and she responded well. At the top of the stretch, she was looking around and I was just hoping she was going to stay focused. She finished well and I think she has more there.”
“Umberto did a great job,” McCarthy observed. “He had to niggle a little bit at her to kind of keep her in the game around the first turn. I thought she was in a great position up the backside and she went up to engage those fillies leaving the half-mile pole. At the quarter, she had her ears up and I love the way she opened up. The La Canada has a great history, and a lot of really nice mares have won this race over the years, and this is a nice race to have on her resume.”
Haras Matriarca’s homebred Sanenus paid $17 while boosting her bankroll to $219,700 from her 12-5-2-2 record. Her signature wins came as a juvenile in the 2019 Premio Tanteo de Potrancas (G1) and Criadores Salvador Hess Riveros (G2). Unplaced in a trio of Group 1s in her classic campaign, including the El Derby (G1) versus males, Sanenus added a turf win in the listed Premio Victor Y Carlos Raby. She began her stateside career with a third in a sprint allowance at Del Mar Aug. 16, and finished a closer third at Churchill Sept. 26, before stepping up in class in the Chilukki.
Sanenus was produced by the Tale of the Cat mare Belgian Chocolate, whose first registered foal is stakes winner Appealing Maggie. This is the further family of Grade 1 warrior King’s Swan, an earner of more than $1.9 million in his 107-race career.
Las Cienegas Stakes
A Southern Hemisphere-bred stakes double appeared likely, with the Las Cienegas principals being Brazilian defending champion Jolie Olimpica and Australia’s Oleksandra. But the turf dash served up an early plot twist.
When Lighthouse shifted out in the initial strides, she scrimmaged with Superstition, who as a result crossed into the path of Oleksandra. In a frightening instant, Oleksandra clipped heels, and Joel Rosario was ejected from the saddle. The rider was soon up on his feet, and Oleksandra completed the race solo, even threading the needle on the rail to offer a trademark rally.
Up front, another unexpected turn of events was the bold display of Charmaine’s Mia. As a former Woodbine denizen making her debut for Agave Racing Stable and Phil D’Amato, she had something in common with turf routers Count Again and Say the Word. But she didn’t have quite their resume, and accordingly found herself overlooked here.
“I’ve learned with some of these horses coming in from Woodbine, that because they’ve got a deeper turf up there, this is their first chance to run over a firm turf,” D’Amato said. “Sometimes, they just float over it, and she did just that. She had trained phenomenally well on the training track here. I haven’t had a horse get over this training track this well since (multiple Grade 1 winner) Obviously.”
Charmaine’s Mia did her impression of Obviously by turning on the speed. Flanking Bohemian Bourbon through a first quarter in :21.58, she kicked clear while clocking a half in :43.80, and crossed the wire a 2 1/2-length winner in 1:07.81. That time established a 6-furlong record on the revamped turf course.
“I’ve never been on her before,” winning rider Drayden Van Dyke said, “but Phil just told me she was working lights out. She was sitting on a big race – that’s all I knew about her. He said, ‘Play the break wherever you are, and go from there.’
“She was doing it so easy, she had her ears pricked up and she was enjoying herself so I wasn’t taking anything away from her. I knew she was going to show another gear at the top of the lane, if I had any competition behind me that was going to run me down, but I had too much horse for them to catch me. She ran a hell of a race.”
Even-money favorite Jolie Olimpica lagged farther back than usual, but belatedly got involved to snatch second by a half-length. Lighthouse was third, until the stewards (by majority decision) disqualified her for causing the mishap to Oleksandra and placed her last of the five finishers. Superstition was elevated to third and Bohemian Bourbon was officially fourth. Acting Out was scratched in favor of Sunday’s Kalookan Queen.
Charmaine’s Mia returned $35.40 for her first career stakes coup. Runner-up in the 2018 Catch a Glimpse for original trainer Michael McDonald, she plied her trade in allowances and some stakes, including a close fourth in last summer’s Royal North (G2). Her resume now reads 26-5-4-2, $232,976.
Bred by Gunpowder Farms in Kentucky, Charmaine’s Mia RNA’d for $40,000 as a Keeneland November weanling but sold for a mere $4,000 as a September yearling. The daughter of The Factor and the stakes-winning Bernstein mare Charming Vixen descends from the same family as European sprint star Committed and turf champion English Channel.