2023 Santa Maria Stakes Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content

By J. Keeler Johnson (TwinSpires.com)

1. Kirstenbosch (4-1) – It’s hard to knock anything Kirstenbosch has accomplished. She won the 1 1/16-mile La Canada (G3) during the winter at Santa Anita and also ran third in the seven-furlong La Brea (G1). Most recently a rallying third in the 6 1/2-furlong Monrovia (G3), Kirstenbosch is a logical threat to crack the Santa Maria trifecta while stretching back out over 1 1/16 miles.

2. Adare Manor (8-5) – The morning line favorite is best known for obliterating the 2022 Las Virgenes (G3) by 13 lengths, but subsequent runner-up efforts in the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) and Black-Eyed Susan (G2) took some luster off her campaign. The four-year-old filly recently returned to the winner’s circle with a gate-to-wire victory in an $80,000 allowance optional claimer racing one mile at Santa Anita, but she won by only a head over Big Switch (see below) and might not be unbeatable in her return to the graded stakes ranks.

3. Big Switch (2-1) – Since returning from a lengthy layoff in January, Big Switch has improved with every start, most recently coming within a head of upsetting Adare Manor in the above-mentioned $80,000 allowance optional claimer. Big Switch’s 2-for-2 record racing 1 1/16 miles includes a blowout 4 1/4-length score over California-breds in the Melair S. at Santa Anita last year, so don’t be surprised if Big Switch turns the tables on Adare Manor this Saturday.

4. Smoothlikebuttah (8-1) – A trifecta finisher in 15 consecutive starts, Smoothlikebuttah enters the Santa Maria off a rallying victory in a $50,000 allowance optional claimer at Santa Anita. But during the winter she finished behind Big Switch and Kristenbosch by margins of 6 1/4 lengths and 2 3/4 lengths, so while a minor award isn’t out of the question for Saturday, Smoothlikebuttah will need improvement to land in the winner’s circle.

5. Mongolian Panther (15-1) – Runner-up in a recent $32,000 starter allowance at Santa Anita, Mongolian Panther is making her stakes debut at the age of seven. Two starts back, the daughter of Curlin finished fifth behind Smoothlikebuttah in a $50,000 allowance optional claimer at Santa Anita, suggesting the Santa Maria field might be a little tough for Mongolian Panther to handle.

6. Bellamore (4-1) – Third in the Rodeo Drive (G1) on turf, second in the Falls City (G3) on dirt, and third in the Latonia S. on Tapeta, Bellamore is a versatile mare capable of running well over any surface. She’s never won on dirt, but Bellamore equaled her career-best 95 Brisnet Speed rating when beaten one length in the Falls City and can’t be dismissed from win consideration in the Santa Maria. Even in this small field, there should be enough pace to set up Bellamore’s typical rally from midfield.