12/22/2010 3:53PM

Switch, Champagne d'Oro top talented field for La Brea

Tom Keyser
Champagne d’Oro, winning the Acorn on June 5, is one of the top contenders in Sunday's $250,000 La Brea on the opening-day card at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita will get just one chance to make a first impression this winter, so in addition to the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Sunday, there are three other stakes on the opening-day card, including the Grade 1 La Brea, the female equivalent of the Malibu, a $250,000 race, for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs on dirt.

The La Brea will share the opening-day spotlight, and even with divisional leaders Blind Luck and Evening Jewel bypassing the race, it came up with an exceptional field, highlighted by Switch and Champagne d’Oro, the second- and fourth-place finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and the fleet Pica Slew, who is making her first start on this circuit and for trainer John Shirreffs.

The La Brea is the first leg of the three-race La Canada series.

Switch won the Hollywood Oaks earlier this year, then most recently gave Zenyatta a scare when second in the Lady’s Secret at Hollywood Park before rallying to finish second to Dubai Majesty in the Breeders’ Cup.

Champagne d’Oro was fourth as the lukewarm favorite in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint. In her previous seven-furlong race on dirt, she was a 4 1/2-length winner of the Test Stakes.

“She might need another work, but she’s fit,” said her trainer, Eric Guillot. “I think she’ll fly over this track. It should be a little speed biased, which will be good for me opening day.”

Pica Slew has not raced since finishing eighth in the Test after setting the early pace. She won three straight prior to that, all at Calder, including the Azalea Stakes on the Summit of Speed card. She drew the rail, just as she did in the Test.

Bonnie Blue Flag, the Test runner-up, makes her first start since a poor try going two turns in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion at Parx Racing. She is one of two horses in the race trained by Bob Baffert, who also sends out Always a Princess.

Always a Princess is unbeaten in races at less than a mile. She finished third most recently as the favorite in the Chilukki Stakes, a one-turn mile, on the undercard of the Breeders’ Cup card Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.

The regally bred Arte Viva is making her stakes debut after beating a first-level allowance field at Hollywood Park during the Oak Tree meeting.

“This is a big step up,” acknowledged her trainer, Ben Cecil, “but she worked very well over the main track. I think she’s got a lot of ability. Seven-eighths might be a bit sharp for her, but she needs a race to get in line for the next two in the series.”

There should be plenty of support for Malibu Pier, who was an easy winner in a second-level allowance at Hollywood Park on Nov. 21.

Sidney’s Candy heavy favorite

Without the likes of Goldikova, Gio Ponti, and The Usual Q.T. breathing down his neck, Sidney’s Candy should have a far easier time of it in the Grade 2, $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes on Sunday. He will be a heavy favorite against eight rivals in the one-mile grass race.

Sidney’s Candy finished sixth last time out in the Breeders’ Cup Mile after setting the pace to midstretch. That was his first start in nearly three months.

His main rival is likely Sebastian Flyte, who was second in the Hollywood Derby and fourth in the Oak Tree Derby in his last two starts.

Make Music for Me was a game winner of an allowance race at Hollywood Park in his last start, and won the Pasadena Stakes on this course earlier in the year.

Nextdoorneighbor was entered for main-track only, trainer Mike Machowsky said, and will only run if unexpectedly heavy weather forces the race onto the dirt.

Arresting Officer steps up to stakes

Arresting Officer, an eye-catching winner of his debut during the Oak Tree meeting at Hollywood Park, will try to remain unbeaten in the $100,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes, the first of four stakes Sunday.

Arresting Officer is the least-experienced horse in the seven-furlong race for 2-year-olds, but he displayed plenty of raw ability. He overcame a slow start to win his debut by 5 3/4 lengths for trainer Mike Mitchell.

His main rival could be Contemplated, who is back with statebreds after finishing fourth in the Hollywood Prevue.

Woodman’s Luck, third in the California Cup Juvenile; Thirtyfirststreet, who defeated maidens after running second to Arresting Officer in his debut; and Gab Power, fourth on turf to Comma to the Top in the Generous, are other prominent contenders in a wide-open race.