02/10/2011 2:35PM

St Trinians returns for Santa Maria defense at Santa Anita

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Grade 2 Santa Maria - Santa Anita - Race 8
Est. Post Time: 7:07 p.m. Eastern - Feb. 12, 2010

ARCADIA, Calif. – St Trinians packed quite a bit of running into four starts last year. She won two stakes, including the Grade 2 Santa Maria Handicap, was sixth as the favorite against males in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap, and gave Zenyatta a scare in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap in June. The campaign took its toll. She was tired by the summer, forcing trainer Mike Mitchell to rest her in the second half of 2010.

Now 6, St Trinians will attempt to defend her title in the $150,000 Santa Maria Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Saturday, a race that Mitchell and owners Don Capen and Laura Chavers hope will lead to greater prizes by year’s end.

“She’s just trained so well,” Mitchell said. “She’s run well fresh, like this. I’ve mapped out everything for this and she hasn’t lost a step.”

The Santa Maria will be St Trinians’s first start on dirt. After the Santa Maria, Mitchell has targeted the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Stakes on March 12. The long-term goal is the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs in November.

A winner of 7 of 13 starts and $308,587, St Trinians has raced mostly on synthetic tracks in England in 2008 and in California in 2009 and 2010.

“These next two races are real important for us because it’s dirt,” Mitchell said. “It gives us an idea of whether she likes dirt. I think she will. If she would win and run big and in the Santa Margarita, it opens up doors to nominate for the Breeders’ Cup.”

St Trinians drew the rail in the Santa Maria and will be for the first time by Joe Talamo, who has traveled to Hollywood Park to work her in recent weeks. Talamo will be aboard a mare capable of racing near the front or from well off the pace. In the 2010 Santa Maria, St Trinians rallied from fourth in a field of six to win by 1 3-4 lengths over Life Is Sweet, the winner of the 2009 BC Ladies’ Classic.

In the Vanity, she was fifth on the backstretch, with only Zenyatta behind her, led by a half-length at the eighth pole and was beaten by that margin in a thriller.

“She is just fun to train and fun to ride because you’ve always got a horse if you need her,” Mitchell said. “She’s very ratable. Joe has been able to work her two or three times and has gotten to know here. She’s just a pro. This little break has done her so much.”

St Trinians is one of six stakes winners in a field of seven.

Zardana, third behind Zenyatta and St Trinians in the 2010 Vanity and a three-time stakes winner in the last 18 months, makes her first start since finishing third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Washington Bridge in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park in December.

Washington Bridge is part of the Santa Maria field, joined by the stakes winners It Tiz, Miss Match, and Mona de Momma, who is unraced since winning the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard last May.

Vision in Gold, the winner of an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles in December, has yet to win a stakes.The Santa Maria is her first start at that level since a fifth in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks last June.