Santa Anita: Turbulent Descent makes late push for Eclipse votes in La Brea

Friday, December 30, 2011

ARCADIA, Calif. – In all likelihood, Turbulent Descent lost the Eclipse Award for the outstanding female sprinter of 2011 with a troubled fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

The setback has not stopped trainer Mike Puype from campaigning on the filly’s behalf in advance of Saturday’s $300,000 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita.

“Hopefully, the Eclipse Award voters haven’t filled out their ballots,” he said.

A win by Turbulent Descent in the La Brea would be her third Grade 1 race of the year, preceded by the Santa Anita Oaks in March and the Test Stakes at August. She also won the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland in April. All of those wins were against 3-year-olds.

Swaying the opinions of Eclipse Award voters may be difficult at this late date. Winning the La Brea Stakes may not be as tough.

Owned by a partnership, Turbulent Descent will be a heavy favorite in the La Brea, which is run over seven furlongs for 3-year-old fillies. She will be ridden by David Flores, the only jockey to ride the filly through 6 wins in 9 starts.

The La Brea is the eighth race on a nine-race program that begins at 12:30 p.m. Pacific.

Puype has geared Turbulent Descent’s campaign to races such as the La Brea, racing her sparingly in the second half of 2011. After a second to It’s Tricky in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park on June 11, Turbulent Descent won the Test at Saratoga in August and did not start again until the Breeders’ Cup.

The 7-5 favorite in the Filly and Mare Sprint, Turbulent Descent was hampered at the start and still made the lead by the eighth pole. She faded through the final furlong to finish 4 1/4 lengths behind race winner Musical Romance, the leading candidate for the division’s Eclipse Award.

“Nothing worked out,” Puype said of the Breeders’ Cup. He said that Turbulent Descent was not suited to a racetrack that contained a fair amount of moisture. Opposite conditions will be present at Santa Anita, with no rain forecast.

“She’ll get a dry track and that will make a difference,” he said. “She’ll show her ability on Saturday. I’d call this a home-field advantage.”

Turbulent Descent is one of seven stakes winners among the nine runners in the La Brea. Her career earnings of $858,350 greatly exceeds that of her rivals.

The La Brea is the Grade 1 debut for Home Sweet Aspen, the winner of the Louis Rowan Stakes here in October; Sarah’s Secret, who won the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on turf last June; Sugarinthemorning, the winner of two minor stakes; and the optional claiming race winners Include Me Out and Teddy’s Promise.

Of the fillies with Grade 1 experience, May Day Rose, a four-time stakes winner, was fifth behind Turbulent Descent in the Santa Anita Oaks. California Nectar was fifth in the Las Virgenes Stakes last February, a race in which Turbulent Descent was second. Great Hot, the winner of the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland in October, was 11th after a bad start in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint last month.

A.C. Avila trains Great Hot. He said he likes the filly’s starting position from post 7, but not the opposition.

“I don’t think she’s fit enough,” he said. “I hope so, but it’s tough. She’s progressing.”

Ron Ellis will be the busiest trainer for the La Brea, saddling Include Me Out and Teddy’s Promise, both seeking their first stakes wins.

“They’re both doing really well,” he said. “It’s a jump up for them.”

Ellis’s thoughts would be echoed by the other trainers facing Turbulent Descent. Puype has the long-term goal of another start in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita in November.

While that challenging race is months away, there is the more immediate goal of winning the La Brea, which would be an excellent way to end the season.