Jockey Mike Smith guides Alphabet Kisses to an upset victory in the La Brea Stakes.

Jockey Mike Smith guides Alphabet Kisses to an upset victory in the La Brea Stakes.


Alphabet Kisses Upsets La Brea; Yearly Report Scratched

Edited from Santa Anita reports
Harris Farms homebred Alphabet Kisses reclaimed the lead in mid-stretch and held off 8-5 favorite Bending Strings for a one-length victory Monday in the grade I, $250,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita Park.

Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and carrying 117 pounds, Alphabet Kisses ran seven furlongs in 1:21.38 and paid $42.80, $12.80 and $6.20. Bending Strings, with Victor Espinoza aboard and weighted at 121 pounds, rallied three-wide into the lane, challenged the winner in deep stretch but could not go by. The runner-up, a multiple graded winner on the East Coast, returned $3.60 and $2.80.

Elusive Diva, under Kent Desormeaux, engaged Alphabet Kisses from the break, spurted to a short lead on the turn, but relinquished command in the stretch and settled for third and a $4.20 show payoff. Susan's Angel, Amorama, Mea Domina, Costume Designer, Nyramba, Sweet Lips and Salty Romance completed the order of finish. Yearly Report, the 6-5 morning line favorite, was scratched Monday morning due to a minor ankle injury, according to trainer Bob Baffert.

The La Brea was the first start in a graded race for Alphabet Kisses. The gray California-bred filly by Alphabet Soup was coming off a one-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Hollywood Park, and had finished second in the restricted Fleet Treat Stakes at Del Mar in July.

It was the second grade I victory for trainer Marty Jones, whose previous score came with Auriette in the 1996 Gamely Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Alphabet Kisses is 5-2-1 from nine starts with earnings of $326,910.

"I thought she had a chance to hit the board," said Jones, who opted for the La Brea with the filly rather than ship her to Northern California for a stake Sunday. "We entered her in a stake up north yesterday but decided not to run because we didn't want to ship her up there. It actually turned out to be a good thing because she's a bad shipper so we kind of backed into this one."

Alphabet Kisses broke alertly and led by a length after a quarter mile in :22.28. Elusive Diva moved through on the inside to gain the advantage on the turn, but Alphabet Kisses had energy left for the stretch run.

"I know (Elusive Diva) passed her going into the turn, but she was still well within herself and it was just a matter of whether she was going to hold off whoever was coming at the end, and she did," said Smith, who was aboard Alphabet Kisses for the first time.

The La Brea is the first leg of the La Canada Series for fillies foaled in 2001. The second leg is the $150,000 El Encino Stakes on Jan. 16.

(Chart, Equibase)

In the $140,875 California Breeders' Champion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Monday's card, Memorette ($10) circled the field on the turn and drew away for the victory in 1:22.66 for seven furlongs. Desormeaux rode the winner for trainer William Currin and owner Betty Currin. Lady Bertrando, a 32-1 long shot, finished second while Yodeladytoo finished fourth as the 2-1 betting favorite.

A dark bay filly by Memo, Memorette was coming off a seventh-place finish in the Grade I Hollywood Starlet and has two wins from six starts with earnings of $158,325.

In the Pick Six, which included a carryover of $177,783 from opening day, tickets with six winners paid $53,112.

(Chart, Equibase)