Barring the unforeseen, Martin Garcia expects to lead his four rivals on a merry chase in
Sunday’s La Caňada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles.

The likeable native of Vera Cruz, Mexico, rides Always a Princess in the Grade II race. He has ridden her twice before, winning the Grade II Indiana Oaks on a sloppy Hoosier Park track last Oct. 2, before finishing third in the Grade II Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs a month later.

Recently returned after resolving a tedious visa issue in his native country that consumed just over two months, the 26-year-old Garcia is in the process of working his way back to racing’s apex. Winning the prestigious La Caňada could raise the eyebrows of potential new clients.

Always a Princess is trained by his biggest supporter, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who gave Garcia a leg up on eventual male 3-year-old king Lookin At Lucky to win the Preakness last year.

But that’s yesterday’s news. After his lengthy absence, Garcia essentially has had to start over and prove his worth once again.

“On paper, it looks like she’s the only speed in the La Caňada,” Garcia said. “But I’m going to do what Baffert tells me. I’ll follow his instructions, whatever they are. She’s a nice filly. She can relax. She has come from just off the pace before to win. She’ll do what you want. If you ask her to go fast, she will. But if you want her to relax, she will. It depends on what you want to do.”

The field for the La Caňada, the eighth of nine races Sunday: Fashion Trend, Victor Espinoza, 15-1; Harmonious, Joel Rosario, 7-2; Always a Princess, Martin Garcia, 6-5; Blind Luck, Rafael Bejarano, 1-1; and Life Well Lived, Patrick Valenzuela, 30-1.


Bob Baffert plans to work Triple Crown hopeful The Factor on Monday, after which the Hall of Fame trainer will decide whether to run Santa Anita’s track record-holder for six furlongs in next Sunday’s San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.

“If he works well, he’ll run,” Baffert said of the son of War Front, who ran six furlongs on opening day in 1:06.98, winning by 8 ¼ lengths. The Factor last worked at Santa Anita on Jan. 9. Since then, the gray colt has only worked once, as foot issues prompted Baffert to work the gray colt on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track last Tuesday, going six furlongs in 1:12.

Another Baffert San Vicente nominee, Norfolk Stakes winner Jaycito, is possible for the race. “I’ve been looking for an allowance race for him, but it didn’t fill,” Baffert said. Jaycito has not run since Nov. 6, when he finished a much-troubled seventh by 16 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Other probables for the San Vicente include Indian Winter and Best Pal runner-up Sway Away, who will be ridden by Garrett Gomez.

San Vicente nominee Runflatout, impressive winner in his debut for trainer John Sadler on Jan. 29, worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Saturday in :49.20 with Gomez aboard, but will wait for the San Felipe Stakes on March 12.

“Gomez said he went perfect,” said Jeff Bloom, vice president of West Coast operations for West Point Thoroughbreds, owners of the Kentucky-bred son of Flatter. “It was a beautiful move. He galloped out (five furlongs) in 1:02 and change.” The San Felipe is a Grade II event worth $250,000 at 1 1/16 miles.

FINISH LINES: Sunshine Millions Turf winner Caracortado worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s turf course Saturday in :50.40, breezing, under Joe Talamo for the Grade I Kilroe Mile on March 5. “It was his first work back (since the Millions on Jan. 29) and he went nice and comfortable,” trainer Mike Machowsky said. “Joe said the horse is just a freak.” . . . San Marcos Stakes winner Bourbon Bay, unbeaten in five starts on Santa Anita’s turf course, worked seven furlongs on turf Saturday in a bullet 1:29.20 for Neil Drysdale . . . Smiling Tiger, third as the 2-5 favorite in the Jan. 22 Palos Verdes Stakes, worked five furlongs in a bullet :58.40 for Jeff Bonde. The multiple Grade I stakes winner is nominated to next Saturday’s Grade II San Carlos Handicap at seven furlongs . . . Bench Points, who hadn’t run since early September at Del Mar, ran down 3-10 favorite Da Ruler to win Friday’s feature race, and could make his next start in the March 12 San Felipe Stakes. “We’ll play it by ear, but we’ll definitely consider the San Felipe,” trainer Tim Yakteen said. Bench Points, a California-bred son of Benchmark, is unbeaten in four starts . . .Blake Heap looked in remarkably fine fettle Saturday morning at Clockers’ Corner considering he suffered serious injuries in a training mishap at Santa Anita on Jan. 30. “I feel pretty good,” said the 54-year-old outrider and trainer, who was walking without assistance. “My right arm was broken in three places, my shoulder in four or five, they had to replace my rotator cuff, and I’ve got fractures in my orbital bones and one in my nose. I hope to be back training my horses as soon as I can, but as far as outriding again, time will tell.” . . . Mike Puype reports Turbulent Descent came out of her second-place finish as the 2-5 favorite in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 5 in good order and is being pointed to the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on March 5. “We’ll see what happens, but we’re looking forward to it at this point,” the trainer said. “She got very tired (in the Las Virgenes). She’ll be OK.”