Lethal Heat, who won six of nine starts in 2008 before going to the sidelines following a third-place finish in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT), starts a new year for trainer Barry Abrams in the $100,000 Monrovia Handicap (gr. IIIT) over Santa Anita's hillside turf course Jan. 3.
A dozen fillies and mares are entered in the about 6 1/2-furlong Monrovia, including the 2007 winner Society Hostess.
The 4-year-old filly Lethal Heat, who will be ridden for the first time by Alex Solis, began her career last March with back-to-back wins on the hillside. She has enjoyed success on both turf and synthetic tracks, earning $426,528 for her owners, which include California co-breeders David Abrams and Madeline Auerbach, as well as Tom Roberts.
Among the victories last year for the daughter of Unusual Heat were the Santa Paula Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita and the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II). Following her effort in the Del Mar Oaks Aug. 16, Lethal Heat was given a break.
“She’s a really good horse,” Barry Abrams said, “and I wanted to start her fresh at the beginning of the year so I’d have a good horse for the rest of 2009. She’s the best horse I have at this point.”
Society Hostess won the 2007 Monrovia and returned last year to finish second before being disqualified to fifth for drifting out in the stretch run. Trained by Christophe Clement for owner Moyglare Stud, the lightly raced 7-year-old Seeking the Gold mare has run just five times since 2006. She came within a nose of becoming a grade I winner at Santa Anita last February when she was defeated by Intangaroo in the Santa Monica Handicap.
Infirmities have limited the career of Society Hostess, who has been out of action since finishing sixth in Del Mar's Rancho Bernardo Handicap (gr. III) Aug. 24. She has won eight of 20 starts with career earnings of $424,940. Jose Valdivia Jr., who has accompanied Society Hostess in her last three starts, will be back aboard the bay.
Lethal Heat, who breaks from the rail, and Society Hostess, leaving from post 7, were each assigned top weight of 118 pounds.
Contentious, an Ogden Mills Phipps homebred formerly conditioned by Shug McGaughey, makes her second start for Eoin Harty and new owners Lewis Lakin and Becky Thomas. Contentious ran second in an allowance test at one mile on Hollywood Park’s turf course Dec. 3, her first start in more than five months.
“I had her for that one race,” Harty said. “McGaughey had her in New York and they (Lakin and Thomas) bought her from the Phippses. She ran very well on the turf at Hollywood, just got a little bit tired. I don’t know whether she’s good enough or not (to win the Monrovia), but it’s an opportunity to get some black type.”
Contentious, a 5-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway , has a 2-5-2 record from 14 starts, nine overseas, with earnings of $94,815. The Monrovia will be her first stakes start in the U.S.
Elsewhere, trainer Mark Glatt expects the speedy La Tee to show improvement from her 10th-place finish at 105-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Oak Tree last Oct. 24.
“She’s run good down the hill,” Glatt said, noting her second-place finish in the Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap (gr. IIIT) prior to the Breeders' Cup. “I think she fits in there, so we’re going to take our best shot. Ideally, I’d like to see her laying off of a couple of horses, just off the pace, but if the race comes up without any early speed, I don’t mind trying to steal it, either.”
La Tee, a 5-year-old Washington-bred daughter of Broken Vow , has a 3-3-2 record from 12 starts with earnings of $180,581 for owners Susan and Allen Branch of Los Gatos, CA.
Juddmonte Farms' grade II winner Jibboom, a 5-year-old Mizzen Mast mare trained by Bobby Frankel, faced top horses in New York and Kentucky in 2008 and comes into the Monrovia with an allowance win on the Hollywood Park turf Nov. 2.
$100,000 Monrovia Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Lethal Heat (CA), 118, Alex O. Solis
2. Jibboom (KY), 115, Garrett K. Gomez
3. La Tee (WA), 115, Joel Rosario
4. Trouble Maker (MD), 116, Victor Espinoza
5. Royal Taat (NZ), 114, Rafael Bejarano
6. Porto Marmay (IRE), 114, David R. Flores
7. Society Hostess (KY), 118, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
8. That's Hot (IRE), 115, Joseph Talamo
9. Contentious (KY), 113, Brice Blanc
10. Eletro Nuclear (BRZ), 114, Martin Garcia
11. Ransom Captive (KY), 115, Mike E. Smith
12. Christiana's Heat (CA), 113, Michael C. Baze