Stakes Preview: Friday’s Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita

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>Santa Anita/ December 26th / Race 6 / 2:47 PST

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The Pace Projector for the La Brea shows a hot early pace with Stonetastic up front after a 1/4 mile.

>Learn how Pace Projector works

The Grade 1, $300,000 La Brea has a field of 10 three-year-old fillies going seven furlongs on the dirt, and when the race is over, one of these fillies will be a Grade 1 winner for the first time.

The TimeformUS Pace Projector displays an interesting pace scenario. Of these 10 fillies, six of them had the lead at the first call of their most recent race, and accordingly, the Pace Projector designates the pace as “fast.” Stonetastic is shown on the lead at the opening half-mile, with Amaranth right on her from her outside. Uzziel is forcing the pace from the inside. Awesome Baby and Taris are stalking in fourth and fifth. The others can be considered closers in here.

And now a brief warning about the Santa Anita surface: At the meet that ran from late September until early November (the meet that included the Breeders’ Cup), from 20 races at 7F, only one was won by a legitimate closer. All the others were won by horses on or near the lead or by stalkers who did not fall behind by more than three lengths or so. As for how the track will play at this new meet, time will tell.

Now let’s take a look at the fillies we consider to be the strongest contenders:

Taris (2-1): Sold for a fat sum after scuttling the field in the Grade 2 Raven Run on real dirt at Keeneland, she is in the Simon Callaghan barn now. Callaghan gets a solid 87 rating in the first-time-with-trainer category. She earned an eye-catching speed figure of 117 in the Raven Run, and she earned it while racing against a racetrack that was favoring closers (as denoted by the Race Rating box being shaded dark red). In her race two back, on synthetic at Presque Isle, she forced the pace early and earned a speed figure of 114. She has a lopsided advantage today on our speed figures. She is 2 for 2 at today’s distance. She exits (nay, dominated) a race that received the same Race Rating (112) that the Breeders’ Cup Filly/Mare Sprint received. She has been training well over this surface. She’ll be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, with whom Callaghan gets a 100 rating. She has a boatload of factors in her favor in the La Brea. Negatives? Well, there is the small question mark that always accompanies horses that are shipping. But there’s a bigger question mark, too. How will this filly react if, as Pace Projector expects, she is outrun for the early lead? And the question becomes bigger when one considers that she will be breaking from the one-hole in a fairly large field. Do her connections send her from the rail? Hellbent on making the lead in a race that figures to have a fast pace? If she does make the lead in these circumstances, will the effort required to do so strip her late? Or will she take back a bit and get tested for both her ability as a stalker and her ability to handle dirt in her face? Bettors will have to weigh this against her short odds.

We give Stonetastic and Jojo Warrior the best chance to upset the favorite. Both are 4-1 on the morning line, and while both will almost certainly need some help in the form of Taris regressing off of those last two efforts, as stated above, we believe that there is a solid chance that Taris will indeed regress.

Jojo Warrior (4-1): Enters this race off a pattern of improving speed figures. She also enters off a short layoff for Bob Baffert, who loves to wind horses up off the bench. Although she has been racing on the lead in her route races, she has shown the ability to stalk and pounce in sprints, a style that figures to play well in a race projected to have a fast pace. She draws the perfect post for a stalking trip, given the long run out of the chute. Her performance against the mighty Untapable showed that she can run her race at the highest level. She has the requisite fast Baffert works off the gap. She is proven over this surface. If her morning line odds hold up, we will make her our top selection.

Stonetastic (4-1): Enters this race off a pattern of declining speed figures. But she seems to be training well for this, and if an all-out speed duel materializes over the sort of speed-favoring strip that Santa Anita regularly produces, she may prove to be stubborn as the speed of the speed in here. She has a top speed figure of 112 and a secondary top of 109, numbers that are surpassed by only the favorite. That her highly talented rider makes the trip is a bonus.

The play: Win bet on Jojo Warrior if her ml odds hold. If they do not hold, shift to Stonetastic.

 

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