03/14/2009 12:00AM

Life Is Sweet outruns Santa Margarita rivals


ARCADIA, Calif. - The first glance caught jockey Garrett Gomez's attention. The second made him smile. The third time he caught someone looking at him he laughed.

As the field for Saturday's $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap moved toward the final turn, Gomez could not help noticing that rival jockeys keep checking over their shoulders for the heavily favored Life Is Sweet.

"They were all looking back at me," Gomez said. "I was laughing at the three-eighths pole."

By the eighth pole, Gomez and Life Is Sweet were winning. For the third time this year, Life Is Sweet went on to score an impressive stakes win at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. The Santa Margarita was Life Is Sweet's first win in a Grade 1 and further emphasized her status as a leading older female.

Life Is Sweet won the Santa Margarita by 2 1/2 lengths over Santa Teresita, the winner of the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap here last month. Santa Teresita had an ideal trip in the Santa Margarita, but had no resources to challenge Life Is Sweet.

"I got outrun," said Eric Guillot, who trains Santa Teresita. "It set up perfect, and I got outrun."

Model finished third in the field of six older fillies and mares.

Life Is Sweet ($4) ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.71. She was last until the end of the backstretch when Gomez quickly moved toward the leaders. Life Is Sweet trailed Santa Teresita by a head nearing the eighth pole, and was the filly catching the eye through the stretch.

"It was nice that there was a bit of pace and that she laid a little closer," trainer John Shirreffs said.

Owned by breeders Marty and Pam Wygod, Life Is Sweet has won 5 of 10 starts and $540,810. Earlier this year, Life Is Sweet won two Grade 2 stakes: the El Encino Stakes and the La Canada Stakes.