For only the third time in the last eight years, trainer Ron McAnally won't win the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap today.
He doesn't have a starter in the race he has dominated recently, scoring victories the last two years with Queens Court Queen and Paseana, respectively.
However, McAnally is sitting pretty in the day's other Grade I race. Antespend is the even-money favorite in the $200,000 Santa Anita Oaks, a race the Hall of Fame trainer has never won.
After making her first four starts in Kentucky, Antespend has won three in a row since coming to California and has six wins in seven outings. She took the Miesque on turf at Hollywood Park, then captured the Santa Ysabel and Las Virgenes at Santa Anita.
She will have only four opponents in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks, including Cara Rafaela, who was second as the 9-10 favorite in the Las Virgenes.
That was the second consecutive loss as the public choice for Cara Rafaela, who was fourth at 1-2 in the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on Jan. 20.
Gary Stevens will again be aboard the filly for trainer Wayne Lukas, who is seeking his seventh Oaks victory. Lukas won last year with Serena's Song.
With Serena's Song waiting for the Apple Blossom Handicap on April 12 at Oaklawn Park, the Santa Margarita appears to boil down to a match between Twice The Vice, the 7-5 favorite, and the 8-5 second choice, Jewel Princess.
Never worse than third in eight tries on the Santa Anita main track, including four wins, Twice The Vice had a two-race victory streak ended in the Santa Maria, but she made Serena's Song hustle before being beaten by only 1 1/2 lengths.
Owned by Marty and Pam Wygod and trained by Ron Ellis, the 5-year-old Vice Regent mare worked a fast seven furlongs in 1:26 3/5 on Monday. Chris McCarron will ride.
Jewel Princess, who will be facing older horses for the first time, will be looking for her third win of the meeting. She upset Urbane in the El Encino, then overcame much trouble to win the La Canada.
Celtic Arms provided Rodney Rash's final win as a trainer, and Saturday the 5-year-old horse became the first winner for Ben Cecil.
Three weeks after taking the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap and eight days after Rash's death at 36, Celtic Arms rallied to beat favored Broadway Flyer by 1 1/2 lengths in the $300,000 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream in Hallandale, Fla.
Cecil, 27, Rash's former assistant who took over the barn's 33 horses a week ago, was on hand to saddle the 7-2 fourth choice for owner Gary Tanaka.
"I'm thrilled to have my first win, of course, but it's not quite as I would have it," Cecil said. "We've had long faces for a few days, but everyone has gone on with their job. It's been a very tough week."
Mike Smith was aboard Celtic Arms, who has five wins in 22 career starts. Broadway Flyer, the 17-10 choice, finished a head in front of Flag Down, while Awad was fourth. That was the same order of finish as the race on Feb. 17.
Horse Racing Notes
To B. Super, who was claimed for $20,000 by trainer Roger Stein in September, became a stakes winner and won for the fourth time in eight starts for her current connections in the $106,850 La Habra Stakes Saturday at Santa Anita. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, who had three victories Saturday, the 8-1 shot beat Staffin by nearly two lengths in 1:15 1/5 for the race of about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf. To B. Super is owned by the Big Fly Stable of Jeff Borris, Dan Horwits and former sportswriter Ken Gurnick. . . . Kent Desormeaux and Nakatani will be in Louisiana today to ride Del Mar Dennis and Gold And Steel, respectively, in the $250,000 New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds. . . . Urbane will try to get back on track against lesser foes in the $35,000 Los Altos Handicap at Bay Meadows today. She will be ridden by Jose Valdivia. . . . Cigar, who missed last Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap because of a bruised right front foot, galloped 1 1/2 miles at Gulfstream on Saturday. Trainer Bill Mott said, "Everything is excellent," and virtually committed the 1995 horse of the year to a trip to Dubai on March 16 for the $4-million World Cup there March 27.