Grade I winner Teddy's Promise attempts to end her racing career successfully with a repeat victory in the Santa Monica Stakes (gr. II) Jan 25 at Santa Anita Park.
Ted and Judy Nichols' 6-year-old California homebred is scheduled to be bred to Smart Strike in Kentucky this year but can surpass $1 million in career earnings with a victory in the seven-furlong Santa Monica. The dark bay daughter of Salt Lake, a seven-time stakes winner, is entered against six older filly and mare rivals including La Brea Stakes (gr. I) winner Heir Kitty.
The Santa Monica, for open company, is the first of six stakes worth a combined $1.15 million on California Cup day Saturday. Santa Anita moved the revamped Cal Cup series to January this year after traditionally running the state-bred races in the fall.
Teddy’s Promise won last year's Santa Monica by three lengths for trainer Ron Ellis, who also won the Santa Monica in 1998 with Exotic Wood. She comes into this year's race off a front-running victory in the Playa del Rey Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park Dec. 15. That was her first start since weakening to eighth after pressing the pace in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 2.
Winner of the 2011 La Brea to account for her lone grade I tally, Teddy's Promise has captured five of 10 lifetime starts on the Santa Anita main track. Her overall lifetime mark stands at 11-4-2 in 28 races with earnings of $882,397. A victory Saturday, worth $120,000, puts her just over the million-dollar mark.
Teddy's Promise, the expected favorite, signaled her readiness for the Santa Monica with a bullet six-furlong gate drill in 1:12 1/5 Jan. 18 at Santa Anita. Victor Espinoza is to ride from gate 2 under 118 pounds.
Heir Kitty, coming off the biggest win of her career with a 13-1 surprise in the Dec. 26 La Brea, will carry top weight of 123 pounds in the Santa Monica. Gary Stevens has the return call for Peter Miller, who trains the 4-year-old daughter of Wildcat Heir for David Bernsen and Pual Makin. Heir Kitty worked on Jan. 18 as well, going five furlongs in :59 2/5 at Hollywood.
"Heir Kitty is doing super," Miller said. "This is a good distance for her and she likes this track."
Miller also entered Lexington Pearl, who has been in training in Florida with Marty Wolfson for owner Myron Miller, no relation to the trainer. The 5-year-old Elusive Quality mare, adding blinkers, was second in the Claiming Crown Glass Slipper Dec. 7 at Gulfstream Park.
Scherzinger, from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn, and Socialbug, trained by Bob Baffert, ran first and second, respectively, in a fast six-furlong allowance/optional claimer in 1:08.78 Jan. 2 at Santa Anita. Neither filly has been seven furlongs before.
Owned by Mark Dedominico and Hollendorfer, Sherzinger has won three of her past four starts and will be making her stakes debut here.
Baffert is seeking his fourth win in the Santa Monica with Mike Rutherford's speedster Socialbug, who was tagged late as the favorite after opening up a 1 1/2-length advantage in the lane. Baffert last won the Santa Monica in 2010, when the race was a grade I, with Gabby's Golden Gal.
The Santa Monica was dropped to a grade II last year after being contested as a grade I from 1990 through 2012.
John Sadler, who won the race in 2011 with Switch and in 2012 with Home Sweet Aspen, is represented this time by Iotapa. Hrnois Racing's 4-year-old Afleet Alex filly ran second to two-time champion Beholder in last spring's Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I). She makes her first appearance since finishing third in the San Clemente Stakes (gr. IIT) July 21 on the Del Mar turf.
Winding Way switches to dirt after fading to sixth in the Monrovia Stakes (gr. IIT) on the hillside turf course Jan. 5. This will be her first start for trainer Tom Proctor, taking over for Carla Gaines.
$200,000 Santa Monica Stakes (gr. II, Race 4, 1:30 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Iotapa (KY), R Bejarano, 118, J W Sadler
2. Teddy's Promise (CA), V Espinoza, 118, R W Ellis
3. Lexington Pearl (KY), J Talamo, 118, P Miller
4. Heir Kitty (FL), G L Stevens, 123, P Miller
5. Socialbug (KY), M Garcia, 118, B Baffert
6. Scherzinger (KY), M E Smith, 118, J Hollendorfer
7. Winding Way (KY), T Baze, 118, T F Proctor
Blinkers On: Lexington Pearl