12/31/2011 1:44PM

Santa Anita: Unzip Me defends title in Monrovia

Unzip Me won last year's Monrovia (above) and goes for a repeat on Monday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – With 13 wins in 23 starts, nearly $900,000 in earnings, and a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in 2010, Unzip Me has been effective just about anywhere, but she has been particularly deadly on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, where she has won 6 times in 9 starts.

Twice in her last three starts, though, Unzip Me has been beaten on this about 6 1/2-furlong course, so when she comes back to defend her title in the Grade 3, $100,000 Monrovia Stakes on Monday at Santa Anita, she will be looking to re-establish her reign as the queen of the hill.

Newly turned 6 as of Sunday, Unzip Me is going to race throughout 2012, according to her trainer, Marty Jones. With the Breeders’ Cup returning to Santa Anita this year, it’s not hard to imagine Unzip Me being a major factor in the 2012 Turf Sprint. First things first, though.

The Monrovia came up with an outstanding field of 11 older fillies and mares, including Mizdirection, who has found her niche as a turf sprinter, and Separate Forest, who knocked off Unzip Me in the Las Cienegas here last April when Unzip Me had to shoulder 127 pounds.

An important aspect to this race is that Unzip Me, at long last, is the beneficiary of a significant weight break. Under the conditions, Unzip Me carries 120 pounds, three fewer than the topweighted Up in Time, who has to carry the maximum 123 because of her victory in the San Clemente last summer.

“Finally,” Jones said. “She’s had to tote some pretty hefty weights. I hate to see her always carrying that weight.”

Unzip Me won her most recent start on this course, the California Cup Distaff. She came from just off the pace that day, a contrast to the high speed she used to flash early in her career.

“She’s become more versatile the older she gets,” Jones said. “She doesn’t need the lead.”

Mizdirection has won two of her three turf sprints, all at Hollywood Park, and comes into this race off a sharp allowance win across town. She must, however, overcome the rail draw.

“She’s a superior turf sprinter, without a doubt,” said her trainer, Mike Puype. “She didn’t beat a great field last time, but she did it in hand. I think the hill will be fine for her.”

Puype was perplexed that Mizdirection carries just two fewer pounds than Unzip Me.

“There’s no perfect system, but it didn’t work in this case,” he said. “It’s not a fair spread.”

Separate Forest is winless in six starts since her Las Cienegas triumph, in which she got nine pounds from Unzip Me. They carry the same weight Monday.

Up in Time is making her first start since losing the rider when clipping heels in the Matriarch Stakes five weeks ago. She won two of her three starts prior to that, both at one mile.

Another prominent contender is Givine, who was a fast-finishing second on this course in the Ken Maddy in September, then lost a heartbreaker in the Cool Air last time out at Hollywood Park.

Wild Mia, making her first start for trainer Jerry Fanning, has a sharp series of works coming into this.