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BREEDERS' CUP LADIES' CLASSIC CHAMPION LIFE IS SWEET RETURNS IN SATURDAY'S SAN GORGONIO, CO-HIGH WEIGHT IS DIAMONDRELLA
ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 30, 2009) – Eight weeks after her rousing, Zenyatta-like triumph in Oak Tree’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, Life Is Sweet returns to action on Saturday at Santa Anita in the 41st running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
The assignment in a field of nine will be a bit different for the 5-year-old Storm Cat mare, who emerged from the shadow of her John Sheriffs-trained stablemate when sweeping from 17 lengths behind to 2 ½ lengths ahead in the Breeders’ Cup event that Zenyatta had taken in much the same manner one year previous.
The Pam and Martin Wygod homebred was transferred to Shirreffs’ care late in 2008 after residing in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in the East. This will be her first start on grass in California, but she’s no stranger to turf, as her two wins from seven starts for Mott were achieved on grass.
Until now, Shirreffs had kept her running on synthetics in California including three straight victories at Santa Anita capped by the Grade I Santa Margarita Handicap before Life Is Sweet was beaten three times by Zenyatta and ran third against males in the Hollywood Gold Cup last July.
“Her campaign this summer was very difficult,” jockey Garrett Gomez said after negotiating the Breeders’ Cup upset at odds of 8-1. “When you run some tough races like she did, it will take something out of you. I’m glad they were able to get her confidence back.”
Gomez, who has ridden Life Is Sweet in each of her eight starts for Shirreffs, will be back at the controls. “She’s training very well,” Shirreffs said of the earner of $1,770,810 from a 6-3-1 record in 15 lifetime starts. Life Is Sweet’s record in 5 starts on turf is 2-2-0.
Her primary competition appears to be Diamondrella, a 6-year-old British-bred mare making only her second start in California for Hall of Fame jockey-turned trainer Gary Stevens. A multiple Grade I turf winner in the East for trainer Angel Penna Jr., the Rock of Gibraltar offspring ran third behind Ventura and Tuscan Evening in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Matriarch at one mile for Stevens on Nov. 28. Diamondrella and Life Is Sweet were each weighted at a race high of 122 pounds for the San Gorgonio.
Alex Solis has the return riding call aboard the IEAH Stables runner who has posted a career record of 8-2-2 in 19 starts for earnings of $820,576. She finished off the board in her only two non-grass competitions. Diamondrella won Belmont Park’s Grade I Just a Game Stakes last June to gain her sixth straight victory and the Grade I First Lady at Keeneland in October. Both were at one mile. The nine furlongs of the San Gorgonio present her longest distance challenge to date.
The complete field for the San Gorgonio Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Century Park, Tyler Baze, 118; Rosa Grace, Joseph Talamo, 114; Treat Gently, Rafael Bejarano, 116; Life Is Sweet, Garrett Gomez, 122; Diamondrella, Alex Solis, 122; Czechers, Chantal Sutherland, 115; Lavender Sky, Ahmed Ajtebi, 114; Teamgeist, Mike Smith, 116, and Cat by the Tale, Joel Rosario, 115.
Joy Ride Stable’s Noble Court will be the 121-pound high weight among eight entrants in a supporting stakes event, the 5th running of the $60,000 Impressive Luck Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course.
A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Doneraile Court trained by John Sadler, Noble Court won the Joe Hernandez Stakes over the course last March. Last summer, he ran second to Zensational in Del Mar’s Grade I Pat O’Brien Stakes on Polytrack. Joel Rosario rides the consistent sort who has compiled a 6-3-3 record in 15 starts for earnings of $437,778.
The complete field for the Impressive Luck Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Quietly Mine, Gomez, 115; Noble Court, Rosario, 121; Mr. Cacht, Felipe Valdez, 118; Tiz West, Tyler Baze, 115; Our Partner, Bejarano, 114; Stoneside, Smith, 116; Euroglide, Michael Baze, 115; Cherokee Heaven, Talamo, 115.
The San Gorgonio will be contested as the eighth race on a nine-race program with the Impressive Lucky going as the fifth. First post is at 12:30 p.m.