By Emily Shields
A competitive field of 10 has been entered for the $100,000 Astra Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita on Sunday, January 20. The 1 ½ mile race is for older fillies and mares on the grass, and features defending champion Plein Air (Ire) taking on grade 3-winner India Mantuana and grade 1-placed K P Pergoliscious.
Plein Air has not started since June, when she finished sixth as the favorite in the Possibly Perfect Stakes over this course. She has only raced in the United States three times after beginning her career in Italy; her stateside debut was last year’s Astra win. A rare turf horse conditioned by Bob Baffert, Plein Air has had 16 consistent workouts since September 18, building towards this spot.
India Mantuana is coming off a victory in the Red Carpet Handicap (G3) at Del Mar in November. The daughter of Wilburn will have the services of Tyler Baze, who has been aboard for her last three starts including two wins. This filly has not been successful over the Santa Anita turf course of yet, but her worst effort was running fifth and that was over only 6 ½ furlongs. She won two of six starts last year.
K P Pergoliscious (Ire) was 90-1 when the gates opened for the American Oaks (G1) on December 29. She flashed speed to lead the entire way save for the final yards, finishing second while holding off all but winner Competitionofideas. Like many, this will be her first try at 12 furlongs; only Plein Air, Amboseli, and Pantsonfire (Ire) have tried the route before.
Other contenders in the race include Lynne’s Legacy, who is coming off a win in the Miss America Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, Pantsonfire, and Cheekaboo. Lynne’s Legacy has run over the Santa Anita turf course 17 times, with eight top three efforts; that Miss America victory was on a synthetic surface after the race came off the turf. California-bred Cheekaboo will break from the rail for trainer Peter Eurton; she leads the field in earnings with $371,995. Pantsonfire will break from the far outside for trainer Richard Baltas. She has finished either first or third in six of her seven tries over this course.
The Astra Stakes will go as the eighth on a ten-race card, with post time scheduled for 3:34pm Pacific.
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