Downthedustyroad left the field covered in dirt to register her first stakes victory in the $250,000 La Brea (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies, the final grade I race of 2006.
Sitting just off a sizzling pace for Jon Court while three deep down the backstretch of the seven-furlong event, Downthedustyroad shook off the razor sharp front-runner Diplomat Lady at the head of the lane and opened up a huge advantage to win with plenty left by 4 1/4 lengths in a superb time of 1:21 2/5.
Trainer Bob Baffert picked up his fifth La Brea victory, this time for Zayat Stables LLC. The Arkansas-bred Downthedustyroad, a bay daughter of Storm and a Half--Fair Majesty, by Crafty Prospector began her career at Oaklawn Park in January.
Her best previous effort was a second-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) against older fillies and mares at Oak Tree this fall. Her victory Saturday snapped a string of three runner-up finishes, the last coming in the 6 1/2-furlong Pine Tree Lane three weeks after the Lady's Secret.
“I’ve seen the improvement in her,” said Court, who rode Downthedustyroad in the Lady’s Secret and Pine Tree Lane. “She had trained up to this race just great. She showed up today. She’s got natural speed as she showed today. We saved what we could for the stretch, and she finished great.”
Leaving from the far outside in the field of nine, Downthedustyroad broke in front, angled in with the leaders, and dueled on the outside of Diplomat Lady and River's Prayer as they flew through splits of :21 4/5 and :43 4/5.
River's Prayer tired on the turn, and Downthedustyroad soon wore down Diplomat Lady, who retreated in the stretch as Downthedustyroad took command.
Squallacious, next-to-last early under Russell Baze, angled far out in the stretch and closed with a rush to take second, but was never a threat to the winner.
The dual grade I winner Balance, making her first start since May, ran evenly for third with Victor Espinoza as the lukewarm 5-2 choice. She finished 5 3/4 lengths behind Downthedustyroad.
Downthedustyroad, who has not finished out of the money since her debut race, carried 115 pounds, eight less than the top-weighted Balance. She owns a 4-3-2 record in 10 lifetime starts and the $150,000 winning share more than doubled her earnings to $282,050.
Tommy Walsh bred Downthedustyroad, who is catalogued for the Keeneland Breeders' Sale, according to Baffert.
"It's important for these fillies to win a grade I," he said. "These grade I wins are hard to get, so you've got to enjoy them when they come around."
Baffert's fifth La Brea victory broke a tie with D. Wayne Lukas for most training wins in the fixture. “She left there running and really showed her best,” he said. "She’d been training fantastic, but you never know until she runs.”
Sent off as the co-third choice of the bettors, Downthedustyroad paid $9, $4.80, and $3.20.
Squallacious, off since a second-place finish in June's Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II) – where she was two lengths better than Downthedustyroad -- returned $4.20 and $2.80 while completing a $44.80 exacta.
Balance, who has been sidelined since she was injured as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), was $3.20 to show.
Bettarun Fast finished fourth, followed by eastern invader Win McCool, Vague, Les Ry Leigh, Diplomat Lady, and River's Prayer.
Scratched were Foxysox and Getback Time.
<b>Eddie Logan Stakes</b>
The $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes, a one-mile turf event for 2-year-olds named for the popular 96-year-old racetrack fixture who has maintained a shoeshine stand at the track since it opened on Christmas Day of 1934, was won by Kolo.
Ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., Kolo ran the distance in 1:37.52 and paid $9.40 for the win.
Logan made the presentation to the victorious connections, owner Keith Brackpool and trainer Carla Gaines, in the winner’s circle afterward.