Hard Not to Love handled another challenge with ease on Saturday, cruising to victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita.
The one-eyed filly improved to five wins in six career starts for trainer John Shirreffs. Like in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on December 28, she rumbled home from last in the Santa Monica for Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, surging through the stretch to win by 3 1/2 lengths and complete seven furlongs in 1:22.19.
“She got into a really good rhythm going past the three-quarter pole and that’s when I knew she was going to be very hard to beat,” Smith said. “I got to take my hat off to John and his team. She’s a lot of work. They’ve done a lot of work to get her here and now it’s paying off.”
Hard Not to Love to this point has only competed in one-turn races, but that could change on March 14 in Santa Anita’s Grade 1 Beholder Mile, to be contested around two turns.
“I think she wants two turns,” Smith said. “I hope I’m right. She’s running so good right now but it’s probably time to try two turns.”
Shirreffs said, “I think as long as she can (relax), with her style of running, it shouldn’t be a problem.”