12/22/2016 3:06PM

Constellation gets tough task in La Brea Stakes

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Susie Raisher/NYRA
Constellation wins the Ruthless Stakes in March.

ARCADIA, Calif. – With the best 3-year-old filly in the country, and in his barn, on vacation, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will hope Constellation proves a worthy stand-in for Songbird in the Grade 1, $300,000 La Brea Stakes on the opening-day card Monday at Santa Anita.

It will not be an easy assignment. The absence of Songbird emboldened talented shippers such as Lightstream and Finley’sluckycharm to be sent here for the seven-furlong La Brea, and the field includes the improving Chao Chom. For Constellation to prevail, she will have to return to the form she showed early in her career at age 2, when she won three of her first five starts and was third in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga.

“She was out of allowance conditions and there weren’t any races around here that worked in terms of timing for the La Brea, so she went over there,” said Dan Ward, the assistant who oversees Hollendorfer’s runners at Santa Anita.

Eight are entered in the La Brea. While the race at first blush may appear to be below par, in fact the field includes the three 3-year-old fillies who collectively own the four fastest Beyer Speed Figures this year for the division in dirt races at one mile or less.

KEY CONTENDERS

Constellation, by Bellamy Road
Last 3 Beyers: 83-73-90

◗ She should get an ideal stalking trip, as she starts just outside the likely pacesetter, Finley’sluckycharm. But the question is if she’s good enough.

Finley’sluckycharm, by Twirling Candy
Last 3 Beyers: 102-96-94

◗ She has run the three fastest races of her career since returning from a seven-month absence. All those races, though, were at Churchill Downs, so she has to prove she can reproduce that form here, and, significantly, has to show she can win going farther than six furlongs.

Lightstream, by Harlan’s Holiday
Last 3 Beyers: 92-88-89

◗ She owns three wins and a second going seven furlongs, her lone loss coming in the Grade 1 Test Stakes.

◗ She is unbeaten in three starts when ridden by Julien Leparoux, who has the assignment.

◗ She produces a strong late kick, so early pace from her rivals could be paramount to her success.

Chao Chom, by Tizbud
Last 3 Beyers: 89-78-82

◗ This will be her first start against open company after seven starts against California-breds, but she is coming off a career-best effort when upsetting Enola Gray in the Betty Grable at Del Mar when ridden for the first time by Kent Desormeaux.

“I’m hoping Kent was the difference,” trainer Gary Stute said.

Enola Gray, by Grazen
Last 3 Beyers: 85-92-80

◗ Mike Smith takes over following her stunning defeat against Chao Chom at 1-10.

Perfect Pic, by Candy Ride
Last 3 Beyers: 90-80-94

◗ The least-experienced horse in the race, she could fire fresh off the 2 1/2-month layoff, as she was impressive when winning first time out in August.

– additional reporting by Brad Free