A pair of Grade 1 stakes take center stage at Santa Anita Park on Saturday when seven line up in the $400,000 Shoemaker Mile on the turf and eight distaffers go in the nine-furlong, $300,000 Vanity on the main track.
The races take place back-to-back, with the Shoemaker Mile first up. Defending champion Obviously drew the rail post under regular rider Joe Talamo as he seeks a second-straight victory in the eight-furlong contest.
Obviously began competing against graded competition in the 2012 Del Mar Mile Handicap, which he captured by a nose. The six-year-old bay gelding repeated in that race last year and along the way has also triumphed in the 2012 Arroyo Seco Mile, 2013 American Handicap and this season's American Stakes while placing in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Mile.
Most of that occurred under the tutelage of trainer Mike Mitchell, but his last win in Santa Anita's American Stakes came after being transferred to new conditioner Philip D'amato. Obviously carried his form with him to the new shed row, proven by his 5 1/2-length American victory, and will try to make it two in a row Saturday.
Among those going against Obviously in the Shoemaker Mile are Winning Prize and Silentio. The former is unbeaten thus far in 2013 after taking the Arcadia and Frank E. Kilroe Mile, both at eight furlongs over Santa Anita's turf. The Neil Drysdale-trained five-year-old was a dual champion in Argentina before shipping to the United States and will have Corey Nakatani back in the irons.
Silentio was beaten by Winning Prize in the Kilroe Mile and Obviously in the American in his past two, but closed out 2013 with a nose score in the Citation Handicap over the good turf at Hollywood Park. The dark bay five-year-old also ran third in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile and and could return to the winner's circle in this spot with Victor Espinoza aboard for trainer Gary Mandella.
Jack Milton and Tom's Tribute both bring wins into the Shoemaker Mile, with the former posting a 2 3/4-length victory in the Poker at Belmont Park and the latter taking the Thunder Road over course and distance. Jack Milton also captured the 2013 Transylvania and has placed in a pair of Grade 1s in the Jamaica Handicap and Secretariat last year. Javier Castellano has the call on the War Front four-year-old while Kent Desormeuax will pilot Tom's Tribute.
One race later, Let Faith Arise will attempt to continue her winning ways in the Vanity. The Jerry Hollendorfer-conditioned filly has finished first or second in all but two of her seven stakes starts. The bay daughter of Kafwain opened her four-year-old campaign with a pair Grade 2 runner-up efforts in the La Canada and Santa Maria before successfully trying Grade 1 company for the first time in the Santa Margarita. She then shipped to Oaklawn Park for the Apple Blossom Handicap, running fourth that day, and returned May 18 to take the Adoration. Nakatani retains the mount on Let Faith Arise.
Iotapa reversed decisions with Let Faith Arise in the Santa Maria and Santa Margarita before taking her own trip outside of California. The John Sadler charge traveled to Churchill Downs last out for the Humana Distaff but faded to sixth in that seven-furlong sprint. She could enjoy stretching back out in distance for the 1 1/8-mile Vanity under Talamo.
The Vanity is a study in re-opposing rivals. Scherzinger scored the Santa Monica over Iotapa in January before taking the rest of the winter off. She didn't reappear until running third in the Humana Distaff last out and gets a rider switch to Elvis Trujillo on Saturday. Yahilwa and Irish Presence were second and third, respectively, to Let Faith Arise in the Adoration most recently and line back up here for another shot at that filly.
Grace Hall just missed by three parts of a length when second in the Ruffian on May 11, her first start since a seventh-place run in the 2013 Apple Blossom. The Grade 1-winning Empire Maker mare could factor in the Vanity with Joel Rosario along for the ride.
Grade 2 runner-up Magic Union and Grade 2-placed multiple stakes queen Unusual Way round out those entered for the Vanity.