Tara’s Tango lives up to favoritism in Santa Maria

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Jen Caldwell

February 14th, 2016

Despite having never won a stakes race, Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Tara’s Tango was sent off the 9-5 favorite in Saturday’s $201,035 Santa Maria S. (G2) against confirmed graded winners Yahilwa, Living the Life and Birdatthewire.

In the end, the gray daughter of Unbridled’s Song proved too good for her rivals and rallied for a half-length score under jockey Martin Garcia.

The outcome was only for certain at the very end, as the aforementioned graded trio duked it out on the front end through splits of :23.54, :46.97 and 1:11.45. Meanwhile, Garcia allowed Tara’s Tango to settle into stride after breaking slow.

Tara’s Tango gradually made her way up to run outside of another rival while just in behind the early leaders. She split horses on the final turn and began her move after entering the stretch three wide. In front, Yahilwa was still battling with Living the Life but Birdatthewire had faded upon hitting the lane.

Tara’s Tango kicked into gear and rallied to pass the still fighting early front runners. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained four-year-old completed 1 1/16 miles over Santa Anita Park’s fast main track in 1:44.48 to return $5.80 as the 9-5 favorite.

Yahilwa lost the war but won the battle with Living the Life, taking second by three parts of a length over that one. Kyriaki got up for fourth while 2-1 second choice Birdatthewire finished another length back in fifth. Star Act, Gas Total and Big Break completed the order under the wire.

Tara’s Tango has been knocking on the door of a stakes win, but just never seemed able to break through. Prior to the Santa Maria she had placed in last year’s Summertime Oaks (G2), Angel’s Flight S. and Santa Paula S. The Kentucky-bred miss opened her 2016 campaign on January 23 with a neck third in the Santa Monica S. (G2), and now boasts a 9-3-3-1, $318,004, career record.

Tara’s Tango is out of the stakes-placed French Deputy mare Scarlet Tango, making her a half-sister to Grade 1 hero Visionaire and Grade 3 victress Scarlet Strike.

Tara’s Tango photo courtesy of Benoit Photos


Martin Garcia, jockey Tara’s Tango, winner: “Today she was good. I think this is the distance that she wants to run, I think she wants two turns. She doesn’t have a lot of early speed. I think she prefers to go at her own pace and this distance lets her run at her own pace.

“She has two-turn speed. She just cruises and she’s consistent. This suits her.”

Joe Talamo, jockey Yahilwa, second: “She ran a helluva race, she really did. The plan was to let her break out of there and place herself, which she pretty much did. She ran huge, I mean the winner came to us and she fought back. She did everything but win.”

Mike Smith, jockey Birdatthewire, fifth: “She just ran off. She wouldn’t load today; she was really leaning against the back of the gate so that when he kicked it, she got off slow. She got up and there was only one thing on her mind and that was ‘get to the front.’

“I have no idea though. She’s definitely better than today.”

Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer Tara’s Tango, winner: “We thought she could route because she did run against the Eclipse Award winner (Stellar Wind, second by a nose in the Summertime Oaks last June 20). I was a little distressed when she came away from the gate slower than we wanted her to, but Martin got her into a good position right away.

“I don’t know what happened to Mike’s horse (Birdatthewire) but she was running up to the front end and I think one of the key things was that Martin let her go so that he could make his own race.

“I’ve just got to enjoy this for a few minutes. I might make some plans later on.”