Santa Anita: Las Cienegas

Saturday, April 14, 2012

ARCADIA, Calif. – Unzip Me, the 10-time stakes winner, will have a changed role in Saturday’s $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap at Santa Anita.

For the first time since the 2010 Las Cienegas, a race she won, Unzip Me will not be favored in a turf sprint for fillies and mares. The presence of a red-hot rival in Mizdirection makes Unzip Me the likely second choice in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas,run over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.

The unique course at Santa Anita has been Unzip Me’s territory in recent years. She has won 7 of 11 starts and $448,510 on the hillside, including the restricted Wishing Well Stakes here on Jan. 29. On Jan. 2, she finished third behind Mizdirection in the Grade 3 Monrovia Stakes on the hillside, a result certain to play a role in betting for the Las Cienegas.

Furthermore, trainer Marty Jones warns that Unzip Me is at a disadvantage after she was scratched from the Irish O’Brien Stakes when the race was transferred from turf to the main track because of wet weather on March 17.

“I wished we could have run in the Irish O’Brien,” Jones said. “It would have set up nicely into this.

“With fillies sprinting on the grass, you don’t have many opportunities. I think she’s better when she can run more frequently.”

Owned by a partnership, Unzip Me, 6, has won 14 of 25 starts and $959,228. The last time she was not favored in any race was a third-place finish against males in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs in November 2010. Unzip Me was 9-1 that day and finished 2 3/4 lengths behind Chamberlain Bridge.

Mizdirection, 4, has specialized in turf sprints since her career began in the spring of 2011. Trained by Mike Puype for a partnership that includes television sports commentator Jim Rome, Mizdirection has won her last three starts, all in turf sprints. Her most recent win in that span was the Clocker’s Corner Handicap at 1-5 here on Feb. 25.

Mizdirection is unbeaten in two starts on the hillside turf course. In Saturday’s race, she will be ridden for the first time by David Flores, a replacement for Mike Smith, who is riding at Oaklawn Park.

Unzip Me will be ridden by Joe Talamo for the first time since a win in the Royal North Stakes for turf sprinters at Woodbine in August 2010. Regular rider Rafael Bejarano is riding at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

The Las Cienegas drew a field of six, including Broken Dreams, the winner of the Grade 3 Sen Ken. Maddy Stakes here on Sept. 30. She has lost two subsequent starts, including a 13th-place finish in the BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs last November.