The Grade 1 La Brea Stakes, inaugurated in 1974, is the first race in Santa Anita Park’s “La Canada” series for 3-year-old fillies that will turn 4 on New Years’ Day. The seven-furlong La Brea is followed in the series by the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 El Encino Stakes and concludes with the 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 La Canada Stakes. All three races are conducted on Santa Anita’s dirt main track.
This year’s contenders for the La Brea are led by three-time Grade 1 winner Turbulent Descent for trainer Mike Puype. Turbulent Descent is looking to cap off a strong 2011 campaign that included wins in the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga, Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland, and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks over this surface last spring.
Turbulent Descent was a troubled fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in her last start.
Other leading contenders include Tiz Flirtatious, who is undefeated in three starts and exits a win in the Cat’s Cradle in her stakes debut for trainer Marty Jones; multiple Grade 3 winner May Day Rose for trainer Bob Baffert; and Home Sweet Aspen for trainer John Sadler.
In all, Santa Anita reports a field of seven 3-year-old fillies is expected for Saturday’s La Brea.
The La Brea Stakes is named in honor of the area in Los Angeles known for the famous “La Brea Tar Pits.”
Only three horses have won the La Brea Stakes and gone on to sweep the La Canada series. It takes a special horse to win at distances from seven furlongs to 1 1/8-miles. That exclusive group is made up of Taisez Vous in 1978, Mitterand in 1985 and Got Koko in 2003.
Other great distaffers to win the La Brea include 2008 2-year-old filly champion Indian Blessing in 2009, 1987 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Very Subtle in 1988, and in 2000 Spain, who would go on to win that year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff and would retire with more than $3.5 million in career earnings to become the all-time leading money earner in racing history among fillies and mares.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who won the male counterpart of the La Brea, the Grade 1 Malibu on opening day at Santa Anita Monday, has won the most La Brea’s with five. Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron has the most wins by a rider, also with five, and Mike Pegram has the most wins among owners with three.
The La Brea Stakes has been run at its current seven-furlong distance since 1978 after the first five runnings were contested at 1 1/16-miles. In 2010, Switch shattered the La Brea record for seven furlongs when completing the distance in a blistering 1:20.33.