Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rich History and Current Interest Surround Sunday's Las Cienegas Handicap

The Avila Adobe in downtown Los Angeles, once part of Las Cienegas Rancho.

The 35th running of the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap at Santa Anita on Sunday is noteworthy in more than one way.

The race will provide a final chance for jockey Garrett Gomez, who returns from Keeneland to ride Tuscan Evening, to match a Santa Anita record for most stakes wins in a single season. The record of 19 stakes wins is shared by Laffit Pincay Jr. (1982-83) and Corey Nakatani (1996-97). It will also mark Gomez's final appearance at the current Santa Anita meet, which ends on April 19.

On another note, trainer Barry Abrams will be seeking a second consecutive win in the Las Cienegas with Bel Air Sizzle, having won the 2008 running with Lightmyfirebaby.

The name of the race, like so many of Santa Anita's historical stakes races, evokes an earlier time rich in the tradition of the early California ranchos. It is named for Rancho La Cienega O' Paso de la Tijera, or simply Las Cienegas Rancho, an early land grant in southwestern Los Angeles county. The lengthy name was originally given to a series of adjoining adobe structures near the pueblo of Los Angeles, one of which is thought to be the oldest surviving building in the city. Another, known as the Avila Adobe, on Olvera Street in the downtown area, was built in 1818 and retains the honor of the oldest residence in Los Angeles.

The original land grant, approximately 4,500 acres, was made in 1843 to Vicente Sanchez by Manuel Micheltorena, the Mexican Governor of Alta California. "La Cienega" is derived from the Spanish word cienaga, which means swamp or marshland and refers to the marshes in the area between Baldwin Hills and Beverly Hills. "Paso de la Tijera," or "Pass of the Scissors," was used by the early Spanish to describe the pass into Los Angeles through the nearby hills, which resembled an open pair of scissors.

Here's the field for Sunday's Las Cienegas:

The 35th Running of the Las Cienegas Handicap (Grade III)
Purse $100,000 Guaranteed - About Six And One Half Furlongs (Hillside Turf Course)
Fillies and Mares 4 Years Old and Up

1 TROUBLE MAKER '03 M 114 Espinoza, V Robbins, Jay
2 BEL AIR SIZZLE '05 F 116 Nakatani, C Abrams, Barry
3 TUSCAN EVENING (IRE) '05 F 113 Gomez, G Hollendorfer, Jerry
4 REBA IS TOPS '04 M 117 Talamo, J Glatt, Mark
5 DAWN AFTER DAWN '04 M 118 Rosario, J Sadler, John
6 GORGEOUS GOOSE '05 F 115 Bejarano, R Puype, Mike
7 GOTTA HAVE HER '04 M 117 Baze, T Sahadi, Jenine
8 STAR OF WHITNEY '03 M 116 Gryder, A Koriner, Brian
9 MACADAMIA '04 M 113 Valdivia, Jr., J O'Neill, Doug


Sally said...

Your history posts are really interesting. Who was responsible for naming these stakes originally?

Mary Forney's Blog said...

Sally, I asked Nancy Wallen, who has worked in the racing office for many years. She said they were more than likely named by the early racing secretaries -- Webb Everett and Carleton Burke. She remembers Mr. Eilken (a later racing secretary) having a map of all the California land grants that was passed down to him by the earlier secretaries. More than likely, the naming was originally done at the direction of Doc Strub.

zraces said...

More recently, residents of L.A. have taken to calling the pass The Butt Crack, as it resembles... more than it does a scissors, and the traffic through it is a pain in the...

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