ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 26, 2013)–A year ago, rumors were swirling that retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens was contemplating a comeback following a seven year hiatus from the saddle. On Thursday at Santa Anita, Stevens added yet another Grade I victory to his story book 2013, as he guided longshot Heir Kitty to a 1 ¼ length victory over favored Sweet Lulu and Rafael Bejarano in the $300,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, getting seven furlongs in 1:21.47.
Trained by Pete Miller and owned by David Bernsen and Paul Makin, Heir Kitty was dispatched at 13-1 in the six-horse La Brea and paid $28.20, $7.60 and $4.00.
“Well, I was hoping I could win a Grade I today,” said Stevens, who will turn 51 in March. “I mentioned on Twitter the other day that my year isn’t over yet. We have two more Grade I’s left out here in Southern California. I just picked up one more so that’s pretty cool.
“I rode this race a bit like a turf race. I was able to sit back in the pocket. This dirt is in unbelievable condition. We aren’t getting near the kick-back we were getting during Breeders’ Cup and the Fall Meet. I was able to tuck in there and I have very little dirt on me. She was content and stayed comfortable. It’s easy to ride those turf races that way and very rarely do you get that opportunity on the dirt.”
Breaking from post position two, Heir Kitty sat a close fourth down the backside and out gamed the favorite through the lane.
“She’s very straightforward, she tries real hard,” said Miller. “She’s not a big filly. I’m really happy for the owners…Don’t forget, she beat the boys in a two-other-than allowance–older boys–so I felt real confident after she did that, that she could handle the best 3-year-old fillies, and she proved us right today.”
With the winner’s share of $180,000, Heir Kitty ran her bankroll to $370,272 and improved her overall record to 14-4-3-1.
Sweet Lulu, off at 4-5, broke from the rail and quickly established command on the front end, carving out fractions of 22.67, 45.45 and 1:09.17.
It was a clean break from the gate and I was really comfortable on the lead,” said Bejarano. “I wasn’t expecting to be on the lead and for my horse, I was walking…The winner, she was the best today. It wasn’t a fast pace…No excuse.”
Sweet Lulu, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, paid $2.80 and $2.40.
“She didn’t get up,” said Hollendorfer. “Everything was good. We don’t have any excuses.”
Executiveprivilege, one of America’s top 2-year-old fillies a year ago, lost for the fifth consecutive time, finishing third, 2 ½ lengths behind Sweet Lulu. Off at 5-1 and ridden by Mike Smith, she finished a head in front of My Happy Face and Joel Rosario, and paid $3.40 to show.
Stevens, who won this year’s Preakness Stakes and both the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Breeders’ Cup Distaff, notched his fifth career win in the La Brea, having won it most recently in 1998 with Golden Eagle Farm’s Magical Allure.