02/15/2009 1:00AM

Shirreffs high on his other girl


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer John Shirreffs holds two keys to the distaff division, one for now and one for later.

First is Life Is Sweet, the 4-year-old filly favored to win the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita. She scored an explosive comeback win last month in the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes, and Shirreffs is confident Life Is Sweet can reproduce the effort.

"The second race will be a little tougher, but I don't think she will regress, because in the morning she hasn't regressed at all," Shirreffs said.

Apparently, neither has Zenyatta, the undefeated 5-year-old mare galloping 1 1/4 miles daily and nearing her first breeze since her Breeders' Cup victory in October.

Zenyatta "kept a lot of her muscle tone," Shirreffs said. "She's just a little bit heavier than she was when she was running. Other than that, she looks pretty much the same."

Shirreffs speculated that Zenyatta may have her first breeze sometime around the start of March.

"We'll give it a couple more weeks," he said. "I don't think she's been galloping a month yet. So we'll wait until she's been galloping 30 days, and then take a look."

Eventually, Shirreffs will plan campaigns to keep them apart, but until Zenyatta returns, his female star is Life Is Sweet. She goes for her second straight win Sunday in the 1 1/8-mile La Canada, facing a good field expected to include Bsharpsonata, Ginger Pop, and Magical Fantasy.

Life Is Sweet had been off more than seven months when she made her West Coast debut for Shirreffs in the Grade 2 El Encino. All she did was circle the field from 10 lengths behind and dominate by 2 1/2 lengths with a 96 Beyer Speed Figure.

But can she reproduce the effort second start back?

"I think so - she has trained well for this race," Shirreffs said, adding that her bullet works since raced are "better than they look" on paper.

Well then, good luck to the other eight entrants in the $200,000 race, the final leg of the La Canada Series for 4-year-old fillies.

Marty and Pam Wygod bred and own Life Is Sweet, a full sister to champion 2-year-old filly Sweet Catomine. Garrett Gomez rides Life Is Sweet, who figures to appreciate the 1 1/8-mile distance, although she faces an entirely different pace scenario than the El Encino.

In the 1 1/16-mile El Encino, front-runners Czechers and Love to Siphon set kamikaze fractions of 46.47 seconds and 1:10.32, which flattered Life Is Sweet's closing rally. Neither of those front-runners entered the La Canada however, so to win her second straight, Life Is Sweet may have to catch the fresh pace-presser Bsharpsonata.

Bsharpsonata is trained by Todd Pletcher and assistant Michael McCarthy, and though she entered the Grade 1 Santa Maria against older on Saturday, she is expected to run Sunday in the La Canada. The challenge for Bsharpsonata is distance.

"The way she's trained, I don't think that [1 1/8 miles] is going to be a problem," McCarthy said. "I think she'll lay up close, a little closer to the front than last time. She doesn't have real quick acceleration; she just grinds it out."

Rafael Bejarano rides Bsharpsonata, whose tactical speed should allow her to get first run over the favorite. If Bsharpsonata stays the distance, she can win.

Ginger Pop, trained by Dan Hendricks, could fall through the parimutuel cracks and also is qualified to upset. After a big runner-up finish Dec. 27 in the Grade 1, seven-furlong La Brea, Ginger Pop regressed and finished fourth in the fast-paced El Encino.

"She bounced a little bit," Hendricks said. "She worked a little fast for going into her last race, so I tried to slow her down for this one."

Other entrants include Miss Singhsix, Accopela Choir, Taste's Sis, Spring Style, and Modification.