LIFE IS SWEET DEFIES RACE CONDITIONS TO EXCEL IN GRADE II LA CANADA

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 15, 2009) – A stunning winner of the Grade II El Encino Stakes in her first exposure to Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface, Life Is Sweet added a dramatic victory in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies while expanding upon a sudden rise to superiority.

What made this victory so impressive was her ability to rally so strongly from last after second-choice Bsharpsonata had set an extremely slow pace, a condition that generally is not suitable for come-from-behind runners.

With Garrett Gomez at the controls, Life Is Sweet ran the final eighth of a mile in a sizzling :11.20 to overtake Magical Fantasy by three-quarters of a length in 1:49.70 for 1 1/8 miles after Bsharpsonata had taken the field of nine through a leisurely :50.03 half-mile. The latter held on for third, a neck behind Magical Fantasy.

A winner of 2 of 7 starts at the ages of 2 and 3, Life Is Sweet’s development at 4 after being sent to Santa Anita and the barn of John Shirreffs has been remarkable.

Her El Encino victory by 2 ½ lengths on Jan. 16 was so convincing that Life Is Sweet was bet down to 6-5 favoritism and became the 12th El Encino winner to add the La Canada.

The homebred daughter of Storm Cat, owned by Marty and Pam Wygod, paid $4.40, $3 and $2.40. Magical Fantasy, ridden by Alex Solis, returned $4.20 and $2.80. The show price on Bsharpsonata, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, was $2.40.

“When I drew the race up,” Gomez said afterward, “I could see there was no pace. In the paddock, both Marty (Wygod) and John (Shirreffs) told me, ‘Don’t change her running style, just let her run like she did last time.’

“As it turned out, the pace was very slow. I just told them, ‘Both of you guys were fired at the three-quarter pole!’ As we went down the backstretch, I just tried to inch up a little closer. At the three-eighths pole, we were closer, but I didn’t know if she could quicken enough to catch those other fillies.

“She really showed a great turn of foot, and to be able to overcome that slow pace like we did is amazing. You can see her stride gets longer as she gets closer to the wire.”

After earning $90,000 from her first stakes victory in the El Encino, Life Is Sweet added $120,000 in the La Canada. Her career earnings rose to $360,810 from an overall record of 4-2-0 in nine starts.

In another graded stakes on the Sunday program, Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Desert Code further displayed his affinity for Santa Anita’s unique hillside turf course by handily winning the Grade III, $100,000 Daytona Handicap.

Desert Code is so at home over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course, it doesn’t seem to matter what tactics are employed. After rallying from tenth at the head of the stretch to register his 36-1stunner in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Oct. 25, the 5-year-old chestnut won on the lead Sunday as the 2-1 favorite in the Daytona Handicap.

Aaron Gryder, taking over in the saddle for Eastern-based Richard Migliore, sent Desert Code to the lead soon after the start, and he was never seriously challenged. He opened up by nearly four lengths in midstretch and coasted home to score by 2 1/2.

Euroglide, who had pressed the pace under Michael Baze, held second, three-quarters-of-a-length ahead of Guns On the Table, with Tyler Baze aboard. The winning time was 1:12.58.

“I didn’t expect him to be in front,” said David Hofmans, who trains Desert Code. “I expected him to be lying second or third, because I thought there was some speed in there. The fractions were pretty slow for coming down the hill, but that’s why he is so versatile. They went :44 (:44.38 for the half mile) today; in the Breeders’ Cup, they went :41 and 4/5. That’s a big difference.”

It was Desert Code’s fifth win plus a second in eight races over the course. In 20 career starts, he has won but twice otherwise. His victory in the sixth running of the Daytona atoned for a rare poor showing last year when eleventh in the event at odds of 4-1. “I thought maybe he would need this race,” Hofmans noted, “but I was wrong.”

“After the first quarter-mile, I was saying, ‘This is sweet,’” Gryder remarked. “I know that David thought that maybe he’d need a race, but I’ve been working him, and he’s worked well. He may have gotten a little tired today, but he wasn’t slowing down any.”

The victory was worth $60,000 to owner Susan Osborne, of Glendale, who races as Tarabilla Farms, Inc. The outcome elevated the Kentucky-bred son of E Dubai’s career earnings to $1,088,939 from a 7-4-2 record in 20 races.

Santa Anita concludes a three-day weekend on Monday with a nine-race Presidents’ Day program that is headed by a pair of Grade II stakes, the Buena Vista Handicap and the San Vicente Stakes. First post is at 12:30 p.m. -30-