03/22/2013 2:24PM

Santa Anita: Santa Ana launches Lady of Shamrock's ambitious campaign


ARCADIA, Calif. – Lady of Shamrock’s 2013 campaign could end the same place it begins – on the Santa Anita turf course where she makes her first start of the season Sunday in the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ana Stakes.

Six fillies and mares entered the 1 1/8-mile Santa Ana, and trainer John Sadler is confident Grade 1 winner Lady of Shamrock will fire fresh in her first start since Nov. 2.

“She’s ready to go,” Sadler said. “We’ve had plenty of time to train her for it. She’s had three or four good long-distance works, and she can run a mile and a quarter, so it’s not like [this] is a long distance for her.”

But it is a long year, which is why Sadler waited until March for Lady of Shamrock’s return. And if she improves off her outstanding 2011-12 campaign – five stakes wins including two Grade 1’s – Sadler can realistically ponder the ultimate objective.

“We want to end up here,” he said, referring to Santa Anita, where the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf will be run in November. Lady of Shamrock finished a close fifth in the 2012 BC. Expectations this year are higher for Sadler and jockey Mike Smith.

“When Mike worked her on grass, he kind of gave me a little nod and said, she feels better than last year,” Sadler said.

Lady of Shamrock was purchased by Hronis Racing in fall 2011 following a maiden win at Churchill Downs, and sent to Sadler.

“We thought she’d be a nice filly, and she won the first time we ran her,” Sadler said.

“After that, she just got better and better.”

Her two Grade 1’s were against 3-year-olds – the American Oaks at Betfair Hollywood Park and the Del Mar Oaks. Lady of Shamrock started just once against older, missing by 2 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup.

Sunday, five others will try to beat her – Grade 1-placed Tiz Flirtatious, comebacker Quiet Oasis, Turf Paradise shipper Smarty B, A Jealous Woman, and Long Face.

Though some trainers prefer a safe, “one-race-at-a-time” theme discussing long-range plans, Sadler is bullish about Lady of Shamrock and her ambitious 2013 goals.

It starts with two races at Santa Anita – the Santa Ana and Grade  2 Santa Barbara on April 20. Next is the Grade 1 Gamely on May 27 at Betfair Hollywood Park; the John C. Mabee in summer at Del Mar; the Rodeo Drive in fall at Santa Anita, and the Breeders’ Cup.

“It’s a six-race campaign, with the caveat we might take her out of town in the middle,” Sadler said.

The return of Lady of Shamrock comes at the right time for the trainer, he admits.

“The only negative is I’ve been running second for about two weeks now,” Sadler said.

Through Thursday, Sadler’s last 40 starters produced 1 win, 11 seconds, and 4 thirds.

Tiz Flirtatious has the best chance at a Santa Ana upset. Between winning statebred stakes in fall and winter, she finished second in Grade  1 Matriarch and Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel. Marty Jones trains Tiz Flirtatious, who will be starting for the first time in two months.

“She had a bunch of hard races back to back, so we skipped the Buena Vista,” Jones said, referring to the one-mile race Feb. 18. “This looks like a good spot; she belongs here.”

Tiz Flirtatious has won 5 of 8, and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.

A Jealous Woman reportedly was compromised by a throat infection when she finished seventh in her last start. Quiet Oasis makes her first start since July after minor surgery for a knee chip. Trainer Ben Cecil preferred an allowance race first start back, but none filled.

The potential bomber is Dan McFarlane-trained Smarty B, one-two finisher of her last seven starts on grass at Turf Paradise. One year ago, McFarlane sent Turf Paradise-based Hard Seven to the Santa Ana; she finished third by a half-length at 67-1.

“The longer, the better,” for Smarty B,” McFarlane said. “When she comes back, she is never tired after her races. I think the distance will help her.”

Smarty B arrived at Santa Anita on Thursday.