ALWAYS A PRINCESS MAKES THE LA CANADA LOOK A LOT LIKE THE EL ENCINO AS SHE AGAIN RUNS AWAY FROM CHAMPION BLIND LUCK

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 13, 2011) – Four weeks after Always a Princess appeared to steal the Grade II El Encino Stakes from Blind Luck, last year’s 3-year-old filly champion, she ran off with Santa Anita’s Grade II, $150,000 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies in strikingly similar fashion on Sunday.

Again, Always a Princess set all the pace. Again, she triumphed by three-plus lengths. But if this was a theft, Always a Princess slammed the door on the way out of the vault.

There were some extraneous differences. The La Canada, at 1 1/8 miles, was one-sixteenth longer than the earlier match. The difference in odds compacted from 7/2 on Always a Princess to Blind Luck’s 7-10 in the Grade II El Encino to 6-5 and 11-10, respectively.

Rafael Bejarano, who had ridden Always a Princess in the El Encino, tried his hand on Blind Luck while Martin Garcia took over on Always a Princess. Bejarano tried to keep the stretch-running champion a bit closer than usual.

But in the end, little changed. Always a Princess completed the journey in 1:48.36 to win by 3 ¼ lengths, one-quarter length less than the El Encino margin. And Blind Luck remained mired in a rut of second-place finishes that reached four in succession.

The result was a triumph for Garcia as well as his mount, whom he had ridden prior to becoming stalled in his homeland of Mexico for over two months while settling visa issues.

Garcia said he knew his filly, trained by Bob Baffert for owner-breeder Arnold Zetcher, was the only speed in the race on paper. “I just let her break by herself and tried to get along with her,” he said. “When I asked her, she really took off.”

The popular 26-year-old rider clearly was delighted to be getting his career back on course. “I feel really comfortable,” Garcia said, “and I’ve got to keep going. Bob told me it’s going to take a little while to start rolling again and get my confidence back. Now I won another big race for him, so that’s great.”

Blind Luck wound up 3 ½ lengths ahead of third-place Harmonious, who was making her first dirt track start under Joel Rosario. Life Well Lived finished a distant last after the field was reduced to four with the late scratch of Fashion Trend.

With no show wagering, Always a Princes paid $4.40 and $2.40. Blind Luck paid $2.20 to place.

“Martin did a good job” Baffert said in the winner’s circle. “This filly is quicker than all these horses, and if she gets the right pace, she’ll just keep going. Now that Zenyatta’s gone, everybody can stay home.

“I wasn’t sure about (Always a Princess) getting the mile-and-an-eighth, and I thought the two (Harmonious) might want to pressure her a little bit more, but he just sat off of us, and Martin slowed them down.

“By slowing down, it takes a lot of those horses out of their game. We have a nice horse, but we have a faster horse and she can sprint away from them. It took Blind Luck completely out of her game.”

Always a Princess coasted through early fractions of 24.67, 48.66, 1:12.41 and 1:36.24. It was the fifth win in nine career starts for the daughter of Leroidesanimaux. The winning purse of $90,000 lifted her career earnings to $576,048.

Bejarano offered no excuses for his trip aboard Blind Luck. “She ran good, no excuse,” he said. Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains the multimillionaire, preferred not to comment.

Her fourth consecutive second-place finish ran the champion filly’s overall record to 9-6-2 in 17 career starts. Second money of $30,000 boosted her earnings to $2,448,712.

Baffert said he would consider the Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on March 12 as the next start for Always a Princess. He looked over at his jockey. “Martin works hard,” said the Hall of Fame trainer. “He deserves the win.”

While his filly kept Blind Luck winless since August of last year, she lifted Baffert out of a bit of a slump. The La Canada victory snapped a streak of 25 straight losses for the Hall of Fame conditioner dating to Jan. 28.

Santa Anita will be dark the next three days before racing resumes on Thursday with an eight-race program. First post is at 1 p.m.

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