The Eclipse Awards are just few weeks away, and the final days of 2011 are nearing to a close. Very little could happen to take the Champion 3-Year-Old Filly award away from Breeders’ Cup Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta, but trainer Mike Puype is convinced Turbulent Descent will be closing out her year with a grand finale in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes December 31st.
Turbulent Descent has had a terrific campaign this year, winning Santa Anita Oaks and Test Stakes, both Grade 1, as well as the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes. Unfortunately she failed miserably to perform up to her usual standard of excellence when finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint as the heavy favorite after experiencing a nightmarish trip. Now she is back, and trainer Mike Puype is oozing confidence in his talented charge, stating, “She’ll redeem herself on the 31st, I have no doubt.” The 3-year-old filly turned in a strong :59.40 five furlong work on Christmas Eve, making it clear she is in excellent form. If ever there is a time for Turbulent Descent to step up her game, and make a strong return off the worst showing of her exemplary career, it’s in the La Brea.
The La Brea will include five graded stakes winners lining up to face Turbulent Descent. Brazilian-bred Great Hot will be making her 8th start of 2011. She began the year winning an allowance race in March at Santa Anita, but her next win came three starts later in the Torrey Pine Stakes at Del Mar in early September. Taking a huge step up in class for her next outing, the sophomore filly finished a respectable third behind Zazu and Ultra Blend in the Grade 1 Lady’s Secret Stakes, defeated by just two lengths. She bounced back from that loss in early October to win the Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland by a late-rallying head. Three weeks later she finished 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, to the surprise and bewilderment of trainer A. C. Avila. With a bullet :34.00 three furlong work under her belt leading in the La Brea, Great Hot looks primed to run a big race.
May Day Rose has had an up and down year for trainer Bob Baffert so far, winning three of eight starts, including the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel and Railbird Stakes, and finishing second in the Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes on November 5th in her latest start. She turned in an easy four furlong move in :48.20 on December 26th, six days after completing a bullet six furlong work in 1:11.40. This filly likes to race on, or near the lead and uses her natural born speed to her best advantage. Unfortunately for her fillies like Turbulent Descent and Great Hot will be waiting to pounce in the homestretch, and it’s going to take the run of lifetime for her to win on the lead.
Sarah’s Secret won the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on June 11th on the turf in a game effort over three-year-old filly turf standouts, Star Billing and Cambina. The La Brea will be her first start on dirt, but her pedigree suggests that will not be an issue. Since winning the Honeymoon in June, the Leroidesanimaux filly has finished no better third in three starts, which came in her most recent effort on November 6th in the Grade 2 Las Palmas Stakes. She’s been turning in some nice works for trainer Kathy Walsh at Santa Anita in preparation for her dirt debut, most recently running five furlongs in :59.60. This could be an excellent spot for her to test her mettle against some of the nicest dirt sprinting sophomores in the country, and she could easily wind up finishing in the top three.
California Nectar started the year out with a game front-running neck victory over Zazu and Plum Pretty in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes in early January. Since then she has managed to win an allowance and capture the Beverly J. Lewis Stakes against a very weak field at Fairplex Park. Her last work came on December 5th when she went three furlongs in :37.20. It looks like fitness could be an issue, but more than that, it appears she has not progressed at all over the course of the year and will be outclassed in the La Brea.
Home Sweet Aspen has never won a graded stakes race, but she appears to have a promising future ahead of her. With just seven starts under her belt so far and three wins to date, the John Sadler trainee will enter the La Brea Stakes off a failed start on the turf in the Cool Air Stakes on December 7th. Running in the La Brea will be a quick turnaround for the three-year-old daughter of Candy Ride, but if her 2 ¼ length win in the Louis R. Rowan Stakes at Santa Anita on October 9th is an indication, she could have a little something to say about the top tier in the La Brea.
Turbulent Descent will be very tough to beat in this spot, and it looks like it’s all about the chalk on this one. There’s always a bad day for the best of athletes, but I don’t think Turbulent Descent even needs to bring her best A game to beat this field. There is an outside chance, however small, that Puype’s prized pupil could steal away with an Eclipse Award if she turns the La Brea into a runaway. In any case, the 2011 La Brea has come up with an intriguing field that is sure to present an entertaining running.