02/11/2010 1:00AM

Life Is Sweet fails to scare off rivals


ARCADIA, Calif. - Life Is Sweet may have won the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths here in November, but she has not scared away many rivals for her comeback in Saturday's $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita.

The race drew a field of nine, including Florida invader Mushka, who was second to Life Is Sweet in the Ladies' Classic, and St Trinians and My Baby Baby, who were first and second in the Paseana Handicap here last month.

Don't they realize who they are up against?

Life Is Sweet won 4 of 8 starts and $1,620,000 for owner-breeders Marty and Pam Wygod and trainer John Shirreffs in 2009. The other eight fillies and mares in the Santa Maria combined to win six stakes last year, and only three of those were at the graded level.

Life Is Sweet cannot even get away from her own stablemate, at least in the entries. Zardana, also trained by Shirreffs and the winner of the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park in December, is entered in the Grade 2 Santa Maria but also is nominated to Monday's Buena Vista Handicap on turf. Pretty Unusual is entered in the Santa Maria but could start in Sunday's La Canada Stakes, trainer Barry Abrams said.

Perhaps the four-race losing streak by Life Is Sweet last summer and fall has left rival owners and trainers willing to take her on in the Santa Maria, which is run over 1 1/16 miles. Of course, all four of Life Is Sweet's stakes wins have came on Santa Anita's synthetic main track.

"A lot of people overlook that she won at Santa Anita in January and was still able to run in the Breeders' Cup and several races in between," Shirreffs said. "She ran all year long."

Mushka was sent to California earlier this week by trainer Bill Mott, who has an interesting perspective on Life Is Sweet. He trained the Storm Cat mare as a 2- and 3-year-old in New York and Florida.

"I think it's always interesting that she doesn't run the same race twice," Mott said of Life Is Sweet's 2009 campaign. "Maybe she's ready to rock and roll."

St Trinians, imported from England last year, makes her graded stakes debut after easy wins in her first three starts in the United States. Trained by Mike Mitchell, she will be near the front early. Czechers, fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap here Jan. 31, may set the pace.

My Baby Baby will be stalking the pace and has thrived since her runner-up finish to St Trinians, said Jordan Blair, trainer Kenneth McPeek's assistant.