Teddy's Promise and Victor Espinoza upset the La Brea at Santa Anita.

Teddy's Promise and Victor Espinoza upset the La Brea at Santa Anita.

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Teddy's Promise, 16-1, Delivers in La Brea

California homebred records first grade I win at Santa Anita; Turbulent Descent 6th.

She had never won a stakes race, but you could never have guessed it watching Teddy's Promise pull away from the field to easily capture the $300,000 La Brea  (gr. I) by 2 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Dec. 31 (VIDEO).

Victor Espinoza rode the California homebred daughter of Salt Lake to a 16-1 upset for owners Ted and Judy Nichols and trainer Ron Ellis. The La Brea was the third consecutive win for Teddy's Promise, who was switched to the Ellis barn from trainer David Hofmans this summer.

Sugarinthemorning, also off at 16-1 odds, closed well for second and combined with Teddy's Promise for a $418.40 exacta. Great Hot finished third. Disappointing was Turbulent Descent, the 1-2 favorite in the field of nine 3-year-old fillies. She failed to fire and finished sixth in her quest for a fourth grade I victory.

The final time for the seven-furlong event, the final graded stakes of 2011, was 1:20.47 on a fast track.

The payoffs reflected the heavy favoritism for Turbulent Descent, who won the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) and Test Stakes (gr. I) earlier this year. Teddy's Promise returned $35, $14.20, and $21.20. Sugarinthemorning paid $14.40 and $25.80. The show price on 8-1 second favorite Great Hot was $11.40.

This was the first grade I win for the Nichols couple, who reside in Oceanside in San Diego County.Teddy's Promise is out of the Capote mare Braids and Beads.

"She promised to all of us that she was going to be very special horse, and she really is," Judy Nichols said afterward.

Teddy's Promise, who was coming off an optional claiming win at Hollywood Park Nov. 25, has won two of three starts on the Santa Anita main track. The dark bay/brown filly won an optional claimer at Santa Anita Oct. 10. Since coming under the tutelage of Ellis, Teddy's Promise has three wins, a second, and a third in five starts.

“It’s hard to be very confident against Turbulent Descent, but I knew she was doing great," Ellis said. "I actually asked the owners if they wanted to scratch and run tomorrow (in the $75,000 Kalookan Queen Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track), because I knew we could win tomorrow. But they wanted to go for the big show and I couldn’t argue with them.

“When this filly got on a roll a little bit, I mentioned to them (the owners) that this would be a good race to point to but that was when I thought Turbulent Descent might not run," Ellis added. "I thought she might take the rest of the year off; but anyway, they kind of pointed that way and I did too, since her last race."

Home Sweet Aspen, breaking from the rail, outsprinted California Nectar and Great Hot for the early lead and set a fast clip (:22.31, :44.75) as Teddy's Promise stalked the leaders mid-pack on the outside early on. Teddy's Promise, who broke from the far outside, advanced to challenge going into the turn, taking the lead from Home Sweet Aspen leaving the quarter pole. She edged away from her rivals in upper stretch and was in command by 1 1/2 lengths at mid-stretch, coming home under a brisk hand ride from Espinoza.

“The last time that she ran, I really liked her," Espinoza said. "Today I thought she was ready, and I thought she would like it better over here on the dirt. I had so much horse today I wasn’t expecting anybody to come near me. She’s a runner.”

Sugarinthemorning made a belated move for Garrett Gomez to make second at the furlong pole. In spite of drfting inward late she finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of Great Hot and Chantel Sutherland. Home Sweet Aspen held on for fourth.Include Me Out, also from the Ellis barn, finished fifth, followed by Turbulent Descent, California Nectar, May Day Rose, and Sarah's Secret.

Ellis, who felt Teddy's Promise benefited from the outside post in the La Brea, said he would take his time in determining the next step for the filly.

“We’ll just kind of regroup now. She’s shown she can run with some of the best sprinters. We’ve got a long year," he said.

Teddy's Promise's only previous graded stakes appearance produced a ninth-place finish in the the La Habra Stakes (gr. IIIT) on Santa Anita's turf course in February. Teddy's Promise has won five of 13 career starts. The La Brea purse, $180,000, more than doubled her career winnings to $350,808.

Turbulent Descent trailed the field for a half-mile and attempted to rally wide coming into the stretch but lacked the required kick.

“This was a rough trip; what can I say," jockey David Flores said. "She made a good run at the end, but there was a lot of traffic. When I moved out on the turn, that was my only shot. I was hoping they would slow down, but a track like this runs pretty fast and the good horses won’t stop that easy."