03/19/2016 9:16PM

Garcia's tip helps Tara's Tango take Santa Margarita

Benoit & Associates
Tara's Tango, racing with blinkers on, wins the Santa Margarita under jockey Rafael Bejarano.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Jockey Martin Garcia wasn’t anywhere near Santa Anita on Saturday, but his handprints were all over the victory of Tara’s Tango in the Grade 1, $500,000 Santa Margarita, the championship race of the meeting for older fillies and mares.

 It was Garcia who suggested to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer that Tara’s Tango use blinkers, and Hollendorfer followed up, even though it meant adding them after a victory. Garcia had to be at Oaklawn Park  on Saturday to ride Cupid for his main patron, Bob Baffert. He got the money there, and then Tara’s Tango proved him prophetic by gamely wearing down favored Taris to give Tara’s Tango her first Grade 1 victory.

 Tara’s Tango ($7.20), the second choice, beat 4-5 Taris by a length, with Living The Life another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Penwith was fourth and Moyo Honey last in the field of five. Lavender Chrissie was scratched Friday, and All Star Bub was scratched Saturday.

 Tara’s Tango had won the Grade 2 Santa Maria in her last start here on Feb. 13, with Garcia up.

 “Martin Garcia told us she was running in spots,” said Hollendorfer, who had to get permission from the stewards to change equipment, as that is not normally allowed after a win.

 “But I guess they trusted us,” said Hollendorfer, who’s in the Hall of Fame. “It was a gamble, but I guess it worked out okay.”

 Tara’s Tango had to overcome a slow pace that found her fourth down the backstretch while Penwith clicked along on the lead through fractions of 23.69 seconds for the quarter-mile, 48.65 for the half, and 1:13.32 for six furlongs, with Taris eyeing her from second.

 Taris moved up to take the lead from Penwith entering the lane, but Tara’s Tango, under Rafael Bejarano, was able to run her down in 1:50.44 for 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track.

Tara’s Tango, 4, is a daughter of Unbridled’s Song who was bred and is owned by Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables. She was held in high regard by Hollendorfer when she came into his barn two years ago, but it took until the Santa Maria for her to get her first stakes win. Now, she’s got a Grade 1, and the victory Saturday was her fourth in 10 starts.

 “She’s been doing so well. She’s really blossomed,” Hollendorfer said. “Sometimes they take a while to develop.”

 The Santa Margarita had been “our point race,” Hollendorfer said. He was unsure where Tara’s Tango would run next, but alluded to the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 15.

 “They have a nice race at Oaklawn,” he said. “But we got a Grade 1 today. That was the most important.”