02/13/2011 9:06PM

Always a Princess beats Blind Luck again in La Canada

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BENOIT PHOTO
Always a Princess capitalizes on slow early fractions to take the La Canada.

ARCADIA, Calif. - A slow pace set by a filly in peak form gave Always a Princess her second consecutive stakes win in Sunday’s $150,000 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita.

Similar to her front-running win in the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes on Jan. 16, Always a Princess’s victory in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies came at the expense of Blind Luck, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2010, who could only manage second.

Race strategy greatly helped Always a Princess.

Ridden by Martin Garcia, Always a Princess ($4.40) set a slow pace of 24.67 and 48.66 seconds for the first half-mile, leading by as much as 1 1/2 lengths on the backstretch.

“By slowing it down, it takes a lot of these horses out of their game,” said winning trainer Bob Baffert.

Without a serious challenge on the turn, Always a Princess extended her lead in early stretch to three lengths at the eighth pole, and pulled clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Blind Luck.

“When I saw there was no speed, I thought, ‘I can make her relax,’ ” Garcia said. “When I ask her to kick, she will. She did.”

Owned by Arnold Zetcher, Always a Princess ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.36. Zetcher said he thought that Always a Princess could lead throughout, but feared a surprise in the early stages of the race.

“On paper it did look like that would happen but you didn’t know if someone would go,” Zetcher said. “When she took off, she took off.”

Blind Luck, the even-money favorite, finished 3 1/2 lengths in front of Harmonious, the winner of two Grade 1 turf races in 2010 who was making her first career start on a dirt track. Life Well Lived, a 25-1 outsider, finished fourth. Fashion Trend was scratched on Sunday morning.

The runner-up finish was the fourth consecutive second-place finish for Blind Luck, a streak that includes a loss by 1 3/4 lengths to Unrivalled Belle in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs in November. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer declined to comment on Blind Luck’s loss, but jockey Rafael Bejarano said circumstances worked against Blind Luck.

“She had no excuse,” Bejarano said. Always a Princess “ran huge.”

Always a Princess has won 5 of 9 starts and $516,048. She won the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks at Hoosier Park in October, her first career stakes win.