Betting Exactas in the La Brea Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 22nd, 2018

While handicapping the $300,000 La Brea Stakes (gr. I) on opening day at Santa Anita, it’s not hard to conclude that the race runs through the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Baffert will be represented by two of the nine entrants in the seven-furlong test for three-year-old fillies, including the undefeated #5 Dream Tree, who figures to start as a clear favorite. The daughter of Uncle Mo won the 8.5-furlong Starlet Stakes (gr. I) last December, but she’s been just as effective sprinting—her most recent start yielded an eye-catching triumph in the Prioress Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga, in which Dream Tree pressed the pace and powered clear to win by 4 ¼ lengths with a career-best 103 BRIS speed figure.

It’s hard to knock anything Dream Tree has done, but she did miss the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) with an epiglottic entrapment—a breathing issue that can affect performance. She’s bounced back well with four sharp workouts since December 4th, but if you want to play against Dream Tree at a short price, her missed training time might be reason enough to take a shot.

Baffert’s other filly is #4 Emboldened, a Godolphin homebred who has won two of three starts, including the May 12th Angel’s Flight Stakes over this track and distance. She hasn’t run since then, but she’s been breezing like clockwork since the end of September and looks ready to roll off the layoff. The bigger question: is she fast enough? In terms of Beyer and BRIS speed figures she still needs to step up her game a little bit, but at least she should receive an ideal setup closing from off the pace (there’s plenty of speed here) in a race that has favored late runners in recent years.

One runner that I like at a bit of a price is #6 Heavenhasmynikki. The daughter of Majestic Warrior is 5-for-6 sprinting and stayed a mile well enough to finish third in Gulfstream Park’s Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks last winter. She’s another filly who needs to step up in terms of speed figures, but she’s versatile in terms of running style and could find this seven-furlong distance to be ideal. She might not win, but hitting the board would be within reach, especially with top jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle.

I’ll pair up these three in the exactas with an emphasis on the shorter-priced Dream Tree, though I’ll cover for the possibility that she could come up short and get nailed at the finish by Emboldened or Heavenhasmynikki:

$12 exacta: 5 with 4 $8 exacta: 4 with 5 $6 exacta: 5 with 6 $4 exacta: 6 with 5

Good luck!