A recent first condition allowance winner going 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, veteran trainer Neil French’s Chocolate Coated is poised for an upset as she stretches out and takes on a full field of 14 three year old fillies, several of whom are multiple graded stakes placed, in Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Autumn Miss Stakes at one mile on turf.
Carded as race nine on an 11-race closing day program, the Autumn Miss will be a key challenge for players in both the $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick Four and in the $100,000 guaranteed Pick Six, with mandatory payouts required in all closing day exotic wagers.
Prominent among those distaffers competing for Autumn Miss supremacy is Christophe Clement’s multiple graded stakes placed Lull, who comes off a third place finish in a Grade III stakes going 5 ½ furlongs on turf at Keeneland and who was a close fourth here at Santa Anita roughly a year ago in the Grade I, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at one mile.
Peter Miller’s Storm the Hill is another likely win candidate, as she stretches out after rallying from off the pace to take the Unzip Me Stakes over the hillside turf course on Sept. 30.
CHOCOLATE COATED: Narrowly beaten in two previous hillside turf tries as a maiden this spring, she dominated 10 allowance rivals in winning by 2 ¾ lengths over the course on Oct. 6. With regular pilot Gary Stevens up, she was unhurried early while saving ground and came away as much the best through the lane. A 3-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Candy Ride, bred by her owners, Barry and Judith Becker, she broke her maiden three starts back going a mile on dirt while forwardly placed, but could likely rate off the pace on turf this Sunday. Lightly raced, Chocolate Coated, who was fourth two starts back in Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes at a mile on dirt Aug. 27, is on the improve and will be making her sixth career start Sunday. A fixture on the local scene for the better part of five decades, French is regarded as a top horseman who is more than capable when issued the proper ammunition.
LULL: The likely favorite, this 3-year-old War Front filly has amassed earnings of $608,057 from 10 starts, her most recent a third place finish, beaten 2 ½ lengths as the 2-1 favorite, in the Grade III 5 ½ furlong turf Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes (sic) at Keeneland Oct. 13. Owned by her Kentucky breeders, Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider, Lull made all the early running when second, beaten 1 ¾ lengths, in the Grade II one mile turf San Clemente Handicap three starts back on July 23 and will likely be on the early lead Sunday. Equally adept on turf at middle distances and sprinting, she ships in from her Belmont Park base in search of her first graded stakes victory in her 11th career start.
STORM THE HILL: Off at 7-1, she was ridden to perfection by Corey Nakatani in winning the hillside Unzip Me Sept. 30 by head, as he was somehow able to thread the needle inside the sixteenth pole and prevail in a three-horse photo. With one win from seven tries at a mile on grass, she was a close fourth three races back in the Grade III one mile turf San Clemente Handicap on July 23. Owned by Gary Barber, Silver Ranch Stable and Wachtel Stable, this Kentucky-bred filly by Get Stormy is 13-3-1-3 overall and with Nakatani poised to ride her back, rates a huge chance as she too seeks her first graded stakes victory.
TAPPED: Second, beaten a head by Storm the Hill at odds of 9-2 in the Sept. 30 Unzip Me, this impeccably bred daughter of Tapit will retain the services of Mike Smith, but will be saddled for the first time by Richard Baltas, as she’s been transferred from Jerry Hollendorfer by owner LNJ Foxwoods. Bred in Kentucky by her owner, Tapped has been a competitive fourth in a pair of Grade I stakes on dirt—The Ashland at Keeneland on April 8, and The Starlet at Los Alamitos in December, 2016. Eighth, beaten 4 ½ lengths going 1 1/8 miles on turf in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks two starts back on Aug. 19, she appears better suited on turf, although she is winless in three tries.
MISS SOUTHERN MISS: Off as the 3-1 favorite in the Unzip Me on Sept. 30, she was poised to make a winning move from off the pace, but flattened out through the drive, indicating that she perhaps was in need of a race as she’d been idle since Feb. 5. A Kentucky-bred daughter of More Than Ready, she’s owned by Peter Cantrell and is unbeaten in her only try at a mile on grass—the Surfer Girl Stakes three starts back on Oct. 10, 2016.
THE GRADE III AUTUMN MISS STAKES WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 9 of 11 Approximate post time 4:15 p.m. PT
1. Kathy’s Song—Tyler Baze--120
2. Miss Southern Miss—Kent Desormeaux—122
3. Beautiful Becca—Mario Gutierrez—120
4. Tapped—Mike Smith--120
5. Chocolate Coated—Gary Stevens—120
6. Storm the Hill—Corey Nakatani—122
7. Domestic Vintage—Joe Talamo—120
8. Spin Me a Kiss—Edwin Maldonado—120
9. Meadowsweet—Evin Roman—120
10. Reverse—Drayden Van Dyke—120
11. Lull—Flavien Pratt—122
12. Bernina Star—Santiago Gonzalez—120
13. Sandy’s Surprise—Victor Espinoza—120
14. Almost Carla—Stewart Elliott--120
Source: Santa Anita Park