The last time we saw Private Mission, she was engaged in an incendiary pace meltdown with Letruska and others in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar. Now, we see if she’s learned a lesson from that rude awakening in Sunday’s Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Private Mission-La Brea
Private Mission and Flavien Prat seek a return to trips like this victorious one in the Grade 2 Zenyatta two starts ago. The pair are the 8/5 morning-line favorite in Sunday’s Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita Park. (Image: Benoit Photo)

The La Brea is one of three Grade 1s and six stakes on Santa Anita’s traditional Boxing Day opening day card. It sends Private Mission and her rival 3-year-old fillies seven furlongs pursuing a Grade 1 win and the heavy chunk of a $300,000 purse.

In Private Mission’s case, it sends the daughter of Into Mischief out as the 8/5 morning-line favorite against six others in one of the marquee races on the card. And it sends out the Bob Baffert trainee in search of the form she displayed before Nov. 6.

That would be the form that brought Private Mission three consecutive victories, complete with three consecutive Equibase Speed Figures in the high 90s. Two of those came in graded stakes: August’s Grade 3 Torrey Pines at Del Mar and October’s Grade 2 Zenyatta at Santa Anita. The Torrey Pines victory came by 6 ½ lengths; the Zenyatta by 2 ¼.

Private Mission, public Breeders’ Cup suicidal speed duel

Then came the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which pared some of Private Mission’s luster away. This came after she, 1.70/1 favorite Letruska, Horologist and As Time Goes By turned the opening half of the Distaff into the equine version of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Led by Private Mission setting searing fractions of 21.84 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.97 for the first half, the quartet ran themselves out of the race.

In Private Mission’s case, this is how you finish 11th, 37 ¼ lengths behind surprise winner Marche Lorraine, who paid $101.80 on a $2 win bet. The meltdown explains how that foursome finished 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th in the 11-horse field.

Now, Private Mission cuts back to seven furlongs as she attempts to get back on track. Livingmybestlife (7/2) will test her resolve not to create pace meltdowns again. Trained by John Sadler, Livingmybestlife ride in off a pair of ungraded stakes wins: November’s Seashell Stakes at Del Mar and September’s Lucky Spell at Los Alamitos.

This is the daughter of The Big Beast’s graded-stakes debut. It will test her 4-2-0 record in seven starts as it tests her ability to bring her front-end speed into deeper waters.

Missy P will stalk La Brea leaders

Should those two lock up in another speed duel, there’s Missy P (5/2). With only three races under her tack, the Richard Mandella charge defines “lightly raced.” She opened her ledger in March with a 9 ½-length demolition of a maiden special weight field, then finished second in the Listed Angels Flight Stakes in May.

Then, Mandella tried her on turf in the Desert Code Stakes in early June. That didn’t go well; Missy P finished a well-beaten fifth: 6 ¼ lengths back as the 2.60/1 favorite.

Grade 1 La Brea Stakes/Santa Anita Park

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. Canoodling, 8/1 (Roimes Chirinos/Mike Puype)
  2. Eddie’s New Dream, 15/1 (Mario Gutierrez/Ben Cecil)
  3. Kalypso, 5/1 (John Velazquez/Bob Baffert)
  4. Private Mission, 8/5 (Flavien Prat/Bob Baffert)
  5. Missy P 5/2 (Mike Smith/Richard Mandella)
  6. Brilliant Cut, 12/1 (Jose Ortiz/Doug O’Neill)
  7. Livingmybestlife, 7/2 (Juan Hernandez/John Sadler)

That lesson learned, Mandella returns her to dirt as a logical closing option who could offer value here. Two of her last three workouts have been bullets, including a Dec. 19 workout against Q B One, where she outpaced her stablemate.

The La Brea is the eighth of 11 races on Santa Anita’s card.