Keying Longshot Mopotism in the La Brea Stakes
One of the last Grade 1 races of 2017 is the $300,000 La Brea Stakes (gr. I) on December 26th, one of the features on a stakes-filled opening-day card at Santa Anita Park.The seven-furlong sprint for three-year-old fillies typically draws an interesting blend of sprinters and horses cutting back in distance from route races, and perhaps as a result, the race isn’t an easy one for front-runners to win. In a bit of an oddity, the pacesetter has finished second every year since 2012, often getting nailed in the final strides by a horse rallying from off the pace. In fact, you have to go back to 2007 to find a filly that won this race in gate-to-wire fashion.
The 2017 La Brea could be similarly tough on speed horses since the race is filled with fast fillies that like to race on or near the lead. That group includes #7 Paradise Woods, gate-to-wire winner of the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) and the Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I). She enters the La Brea off a solid third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) and is returning to the site of her two biggest wins, but she’s also cutting back to a sprint distance for the first time in nine months and might have to adapt to an off-the-pace running style.
#3 Unique Bella is the other main contender, having rattled off five straight wins from November 2016 through October 2017, including four graded stakes victories at Santa Anita by a combined 22 lengths. She was subsequently sent off as a heavy favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Del Mar, but the combination of setting too fast of a pace (:21.84, :44.35) and racing too close to a slow rail compromised her chances and she finished a distant seventh.
The conditions of the La Brea Stakes should be much more to Unique Bella’s liking, and her workouts since the Breeders’ Cup suggest that the race didn’t take too much out of her. She’s the logical choice to win, but is she the best play at a short price?
I’m intrigued by the longshot #4 Mopotism. Though she hasn’t won since February, she’s run well in some important route race throughout the year, placing in three graded stakes races and running fifth in a competitive renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) last time out. She has a tendency to make a move and then flatten out in the homestretch, which—to me—suggest she might enjoy the cutback to a sprint distance. In the event that Paradise Woods and Unique Bella hook up in a battle for the lead, Mopotism could be a candidate to come running late and finish in the top two. With that in mind, let’s shoot for a bit of a score and key Mopotism in the exacta:
$5 exacta: 4 with 3,7 ($10) $5 exacta: 3,7 with 4 ($10)