Got Koko Won't Sneak Up in El Encino

Texas-bred Got Koko heads a field of nine 4-year-old fillies set to match strides Sunday in the $150,000 El Encino Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park.

The 1 1/16-mile El Encino, on the main track, is the second leg of Santa Anita's La Canada Series for 4-year-old fillies. The series began Dec. 28 with the La Brea Stakes (gr. I), in which Got Koko came from far off the pace to score a 3 ½-length win at 17-1 odds. It was the first graded victory for the daughter of Signal Tap, who is owned by Aase Headley and Paul Leung, and trained by Bruce Headley.

The $200,000 La Canada Stakes at 1 1/8 mile on Feb. 8 concludes the series. Taisez Vous in 1978 and Mitterand in 1985 are the only two fillies have swept the La Canada Series. Affluent won the first two legs last year and then finished fourth in the La Canada Stakes.

Affluent prevailed by a nose over the Headley-trained Royally Chosen in last year's running of the El Encino.

Regular rider Alex Solis said Got Koko was overlooked in the seven-furlong La Brea, but that his confidence in the filly never wavered.

"Bruce and I have always thought she was a Grade I filly," Solis said. "And I'm sure she'll handle the longer distances just fine."

Got Koko has won four of eight starts overall and has earned $242,946.

Bella Bellucci, Adoration and Glia are top contenders.

A two-time graded stakes winner, Bella Bellucci was slow into stride in the La Brea, but did mount a late rally to finish fourth. She has run well before in distance races.

Adoration also is a double graded stakes winner around two turns, and she figures to improve after encountering severe traffic problems while finishing ninth in the Monrovia Handicap (gr. IIIT) on turf in her last.

Glia, from the high-powered Bobby Frankel string, also moves to dirt after finishing second in the II Miss Revere (gr. IIT) on the Churchill Downs grass Nov. 16.

$150,000 El Encino Stakes (gr. II), 4-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 mile)
PP Horse, Jockey, Wgt.
1 Ponche De Leona, Felipe Martinez, 117
2 Bella Bellucci, Mike Smith, 117
3 Adoration, Pat Valenzuela, 119
4 Ms Louisett, Kent Desormeaux, 117
5 Glia, Victor Espinoza, 119
6 Bare Necessities, Jose Valdivia Jr., 119
7 Got Koko, Alex Solis, 119
8 Ile De France, Julie Krone, 115
9 Theresa's Year, Tyler Baze, 117