12/23/2013 11:41AM

Santa Anita: Sweet Lulu shouldn't mind rail in La Brea

Michael Amoruso
Sweet Lulu (far right) has raced well while inside of horses several times in her career, including this win in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Sweet Lulu had an ambitious fall campaign, with trips to Saratoga, Parx, and then a start in the Breeders’ Cup, all in Grade 1 races. She has had a bit of time off since then, but the stakes remain just as high on Thursday at Santa Anita, when Sweet Lulu attempts to win her second Grade 1 race of the year in the $300,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Only seven entered the seven-furlong La Brea, so the rail draw for Sweet Lulu should not be as daunting as it would have been in a larger field. She also has done well with inside draws, having won her first two starts from the rail, as well as scoring a gusty victory in the Test at Saratoga while racing on the inside with pressure throughout.

[Santa Anita opening day: Get PPs, watch Thursday's card live]

“She’s run well from the one hole,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Sweet Lulu.

Sweet Lulu won the first four starts of her career, including the Test, then was second in the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx before finishing fifth after setting the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.

“I think we did the right thing giving her time off after the Breeders’ Cup,” Hollendorfer said. “She had traveled a lot. I’m happy where we’re at with her.”

Rafael Bejarano, who rode Sweet Lulu in her first two races, is back aboard for the La Brea.

But this is by no means a lay-up. Sweet Lulu’s rivals include Executiveprivilege, winner of the Grade 1 Chandelier here as a 2-year-old; Madame Cactus, winner of the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland in her last start; and My Happy Face, who was third in the Test after a wide trip.

Executiveprivilege has made just two well-spaced starts this year after a productive campaign at age 2. She faced older runners like Reneesgotzip and Teddy’s Promise in her last two starts, so this could provide a bit of relief.

Like Executiveprivilege, Madame Cactus figures to be a late threat. She is 2 for 2 going seven furlongs, overcame a wide trip to win the Raven Run, and drew favorably in the outside stall.

“I popped off my chair when I heard the draw. You couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Pete Eurton, who trains Madame Cactus.

This will be only the third start for Madame Cactus since returning from a lengthy layoff. She was second against older horses in her comeback at Del Mar before winning the Raven Run. After that race, Eurton and owner Marc Ferrell decided it was prudent to simply point for the La Brea.

“It’s the last 3-year-old, Grade 1 race you’re going to find,” Eurton said.

My Happy Face returns to her ideal distance after a pair of tries going long. This will be her first start in California, and her second start since Peter Miller took over as her trainer following a private purchase.

“She’s probably better around one turn,” Miller said. “She’s turning back, and we’ve sharpened her up.”

Miller also sends out Heir Kitty, who added blinkers and beat a second-level allowance field at Betfair Hollywood Park last month.

“I think we’ve found out she’s a late-running sprinter,” Miller said.

Miss Lucky Sevens, making her first start on dirt, and Journey On, who has won 4 of 6 against lesser competition, round out the field.