Cavorting the Class of the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes

Cavorting the Class of the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

Ahh seven furlongs. It’s not too long for the fastest horse in the race to run the rest of their feet. It’s also not too short for the stone cold closer to blow by the entire field. Anything truly can happen, and that is precisely why seven eighths is one of my favorite distances. If you enjoy this trip like me, the joy of Christmas will once again be extended by 24 hours for the big doings at The Great Race Place. Along with the Malibu Stakes, the La Brea Stakes is part of a sensational duo of Grade 1, seven furlong races headlining a fantastic afternoon of racing on opening day at Santa Anita. Without further ado, here is my analysis of the La Brea field, from the rail out ...

Birdatthewire - After a six month layoff following a run at the Kentucky Oaks, the well thought of daughter of Summer Bird has run two middling efforts against graded stakes competition at Churchill Downs. Off these two efforts, the Dale Romans charge would need to improve to handle this bunch, especially if the Santa Anita track is favoring speed on opening day. Having said that, her class clearly puts her in with a chance, and note that in her only previous race at seven furlongs, she produced a powerhouse rally that carried her to an easy victory in the Grade 2 Forward Gal. She’s not my top pick in here, but ignore her in her first Southern California run at your own risk.

Hot City Girl - Another who will be making her first start on the West Coast, but unlike the others, this filly has a high turn of early speed. She is also on a nice roll, having accounted for three straight impressive wins since tiring in the nine furlong Mother Goose in late June. Most recently, she dominated the Safely Kept Stakes at Laurel Park by more than eight lengths, and at this same seven panel trip. There will be more early speed to deal with in here, but the Linda Rice trainee does not need the lead to win. She also is a proven commodity at the tricky distance. This will be one of her toughest tests to date, but given her current form, she is one of my top two picks.

Cavorting - There can be no doubt that the Stonestreet filly is the deserving favorite of the Grade 1 La Brea. She comes in as the class of the field, and she has held excellent form since June 5. That date was the first of her three stakes race winning streak, which included a big win in the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga. Most recently, she languished too long at the back of the pack, before uncoiling her late rally to finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Still, it was another solid effort, and there is little reason to believe that she will not throw in another good one on Saturday. Along with Hot City Girl, she is one of my top two picks.

Maybellene - On the one hand, the Bob Baffert trained daughter of Lookin At Lucky has plenty of back class, dating back to her juvenile season. The problem for me, is that it is a little too far back. She has not run since a good effort in the Sunland Oaks, nine months ago. At her best, I’m not sure she would beat these, and combined with the long layoff, I just can’t muster too much confidence in her chances at all. Maybe this one will get her ready for a solid early season schedule in 2016.

Lily Pod - Her only win in six lifetime starts came in a maiden race in October. There is some sprinting talent in there, but this just looks like too much to ask from a filly who finished fourth in allowance company last time.

Ben’s Duchess - The good looking chestnut daughter of Munnings has been a consistent sort since her career debut just over a year ago. Never out of the money in nine career starts, the John Sadler charge took things up a notch in her most recent effort when she rolled to victory in the Grade 2 L.A. Woman at Santa Anita in early October. It should be noted that she was the beneficiary of a speed duel which included everyone else in the five-horse field. Still, Ben’s Duchess must be considered a real threat over a track she clearly likes, and at a distance that would seem to be well suited for her running style. Joe Talamo will be in the saddle for the seventh straight time. She my be the most likely to beat my top two.

Rattataptap - The Phil D’Amato trained filly has not quite broken through against stakes company in six tries to date. I can see why the daughter of Tapit keeps getting a shot, though, sooner or later, she likely will win. In her last start, an allowance race at Del Mar, she dominated her competition at a flat mile. That should set her up nicely for a shot at the La Brea upset. Seeing as my selections so far have been chalky, this one might be the one to use to try to infuse some odds into the picture.

Pleasant Tales - One of those fillies that can look very good against average competition, but she has been disappointing in each of her four stakes tries. Off her nice win at Churchill Downs last time, I want to like her a little in here, but I just can’t do it, seeing how easily she folded up the tent in her two stakes tries just before that one.

Moyo Honey - In three of her four lifetime starts, she has sprinted on the dirt. With two wins and a second, that looks to be her bag. Another who comes in off a win, she clearly has never seen the kind of fillies she will tangle with on Saturday. Can she step up? I see it as unlikely against this solid bunch, but her upside leaves her with at least a puncher’s chance.

Finest City - In her two wins, she has won like a good thing in fast time. The problem for Gary Stevens’ mount in the La Brea, is that in her three losses, she just didn’t seem to show the amount of heart needed to get it done against big time competition. At only 8-1 on the morning line, I will take a stand against her, in her toughest assignment yet.

Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to HRN, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing webcast HorseCenter, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars and is a Vox Populi committee member. He is a voter for racing's Hall of Fame, as well as a weekly NTRA poll voter. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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