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Hard Not To Love Takes Perfect Record into Angels Flight / Thursday, May 2, 2019

Unbeaten in the first two starts of her career, Hard Not to Love will try deeper waters on Saturday at Santa Anita in the $75,000 Angels Flight Stakes for three-year-old fillies.

The one-eyed bay filly is the 9-to-5 second choice in a field of five that will go postward at approximately 12:30 p.m. Pacific.

Hard Not to Love, trained by John Shirreffs, scored by 3 lengths in her 6-furlong debut on February 16, earning “Rising Star” plaudits from Thoroughbred Daily News with a frontrunning performance. She made a decisive move from just off the pace in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance on April 13, taking command in the far turn and holding on to prevail by three-quarters of a lengths for jockey Tiago Pereira, who will be aboard for a third time on Saturday.

West Point Thoroughbreds and a group that includes Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable and Shirreffs’s wife, Dottie Ingordo, bought Hard Not to Love in the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale.

The progression to a seven-furlong trip on Saturday is likely to be followed by a two-turn test that Shirreffs is eager for her to essay. Hard Not to Love is a half sister to Wonder Gadot, who captured two-thirds of the Canadian Triple Crown against males last summer and finished second over 9 panels in the Kentucky Oaks.

The linemaker’s slight favorite for the Angels Flight at 8-to-5 odds is Sneaking Out, who carries in a three-race win streak of her own, having most recently notched a 2 1/2-length win at 1-to-2 odds in the 6 1/2-furlong Evening Jewel Stakes for California-breds at Santa Anita on April 6.

From Daily Racing Form comes the following by Brad Free:

One-eyed Hard Not to Love one to watch in Angel Flight Stakes

ARCADIA, Calif. – Plenty more stakes remain for 3-year-old fillies beyond the Saturday doubleheader at Santa Anita, although Hard Not to Love does not know what is left.

Hard Not to Love is missing her left eye. So far, no big deal. She scored impressive victories in her first two starts and will enter the $75,000 Angels Flight Stakes as a major contender against statebred stakes winner Sneaking Out and flashy debut winner Miss My Rose.

John Shirreffs trains Hard Not to Love, who is unbothered by the vision deficit.

“She’s pretty good about horses on the inside of her, she’s okay there,” Shirreffs said. “The thing is letting her turn her head and look so she can see the other [left] side when she needs to.”

Hard Not to Love wired maidens first out, her next start was noteworthy. She engaged in a four-way duel, shook clear, opened up, and held. Shirreffs hopes jockey Tiago Pereira can somehow guide her away from post 2 in the five-runner field.

“She likes it a little bit more on the outside than the inside,” Shirreffs said.

Sired by Hard Spun, Hard Not to Love is a sibling to Queen’s Plate winner Wonder Gadot, and Shirreffs looks forward to stretching her out. “Her breeding is all two-turn breeding, just waiting for the opportunity.”

That will arrive May 26 in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks, a 1 1/16-mile race and also likely to be the next start for the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Sneaking Out. Her win in the Evening Jewel Stakes for California-breds was her third from four starts.

In addition to Miss My Rose, the five-runner Angels Flight includes outsiders Stealthediamonds and Tiz a Master.

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