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Grade I winner Sweet Lulu makes her first start since a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint as the likely choice in the $300,000 La Brea Stakes opening day Dec. 26 at Santa Anita Park.
The La Brea, for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, is one of two grade I sprints along with the Malibu Stakes on the initial program of the six-month Southern California meet. The race, which attracted a solid field of seven, is the sixth on the nine-race card with a 2:30 p.m. PST scheduled post.
Steve Beneto's Sweet Lulu won a memorable renewal of the Test Stakes at Saratoga Race Course this summer by a head over Wildcat Lily for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Following a runner-up finish to Close Hatches in the Cotillion Stakes a month later, the Mr. Greeley filly was returned to sprinting in the Breeders' Cup, where she faced the champion Groupie Doll.
Starting from the far outside post in the field of 12 at odds of 5-1, Sweet Lulu carved a hot pace (:22.19, :44.19) while under heavy pressure from Teddy's Promise and gave way in upper stretch, finishing 5 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Groupie Doll.
Undefeated in four starts this year following her Test triumph, Sweet Lulu worked a half mile Dec. 21 in :47 flat as she looks to get back to the winner's circle. She drew the rail for her return with Rafael Bejarano taking the call. The chestnut filly, who and will carry top weight of 123 pounds, has earnings of $309,317 from an overall mark of four wins and a second from six starts.
Executiveprivilege, a two-time grade I winner at 2 while winning her first five starts for trainer Bob Baffert, makes her third start of 2013 in the La Brea and is seeking her first win. Second to the highly regarded speedster Reneesgotzip in her seasonal bow July 18 at Del Mar, Executiveprivilge was fourth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by multiple grade I winner Teddy's Promise in the L.A. Woman Stakes at Santa Anita in her most recent try Oct. 5.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, the Kentucky-bred daughter of First Samurai drilled five furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:00 4/5 Dec. 18. She has earnings of $963,000 from five wins and two seconds in nine starts and will don blinkers with Mike Smith to ride from gate 4.
Trainer Pete Eurton's Madame Cactus comes off an 11-1 upset win over 13 opponents in the seven-furlong Raven Run Stakes over Polytrack at Keeneland Oct. 19. Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Marc C. Ferrell, the Cactus Ridge lass has worked extremely well locally since that effort. She drilled five furlongs out of the gate in a bullet :59 4/5 at Santa Anita Dec. 13, and followed that with a half mile in :47 3/5 Dec. 21. Joe Talamo has the call from the far outside post.
Also among the leading contenders is My Happy Face, making her first start on the West Coast for trainer Peter Miller. Previously trained by Chad Brown, the gray/roan daughter of Tiz Wonderful was just a neck behind Sweet Lulu when third in the Test and comes off a fourth-place effort in the nine-furlong Comely Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in her first start for Miller Nov. 30.