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Hidden Lake’s La Brea Victory Sends Message

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Months ago, trainer Walter Greenman didn’t hesitate to run Hidden Lake against top fillies. Last winter at Santa Anita, Greenman’s horse finished third in the Las Virgenes Stakes and the Santa Anita Oaks, while Antespend and Cara Rafaela ran 1-2 in both races.

Hidden Lake showed all this promise while running on sore legs.

“I think that’s why she’d hang a lot of the time,” said Greenman, referring to Hidden Lake’s lack of punch in the stretch.

Finally, it was decided in June, after a third-place finish at Churchill Downs, to operate on Hidden Lake, and chips were removed from two knees and two ankles.

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Greenman gave Hidden Lake four months to recuperate, and now, approaching her 4-year-old year, she may be a filly to reckon with in the three-race La Canada series at Santa Anita. Hidden Lake passed her first test Sunday, winning the $130,900 La Brea Stakes by one length.

Hidden Lake ended a six-race losing streak and won for the first time in almost a year. The La Brea was a seven-furlong race, and Greenman hinted that Hidden Lake might come back at 1 1/16 miles in the El Encino on Jan. 20. The $200,000 La Canada, on Feb. 9, is at 1 1/8 miles.

Hidden Lake, making her first start in 6 1/2 months, outfinished Belle’s Flag, who had shaken off Advancing Star after a :44 3/5 opening half-mile. Belle’s Flag, who now has a third and a second after winning her first four starts, finished three lengths ahead of Tiffany Diamond.

Advancing Star, breaking from the outside, was beaten by nine lengths as Hidden Lake reached the wire in 1:22 on a track listed as good. The winner paid $15.20 as the third choice and earned $80,900 for her first stake win and third victory in 13 starts.

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Chris McCarron rode Hidden Lake, who carried 115 pounds, four less than Belle’s Flag and Advancing Star. The winner, fifth after a half-mile, was able to cut the corner heading for home and then mowed down Belle’s Flag from the outside.

“Even in her first couple of starts, she was never really green,” McCarron said. “She was always very professional. When I walked into the paddock, there was more muscle on this filly than there’d been in the past. She moved up about 15 lengths to beat these kind of fillies.”

Advancing Star went into the La Brea with four victories in seven starts, but had been a distant fourth in her only race over an off track.

“She was struggling,” said her jockey, Gary Stevens. “It was like she had ice skates on. She didn’t handle the track.”

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Greenman told himself before the race that he would have been happy with second money.

“I was surprised we beat the outside horse,” he said. “If we had come within four or five lengths of her, I would have been tickled pink. But the track probably had something to do with the way [Advancing Star] ran.”

Corey Nakatani told Darrell Vienna, Belle’s Flag’s trainer, that they might have won but for the deep ground near the rail as the horses left the seven-furlong chute. Belle’s Flag broke from the No. 2 post.

“From our post,” Nakatani said, “you had to get out of there to try to get the best part of the track. I didn’t want to be down inside and try to push her through the mud, so I tried to bounce out of there and slow her down. The track isn’t carrying speed at all. Everything is winning from behind.”

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Greenman was sorry that Jim Weir wasn’t around to enjoy Hidden Lake’s finest hour. Weir, who lived in Phoenix, died a few months ago after battling cancer, and his sons now run the racing stable.

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Santa Anita has a Tuesday card scheduled, but the track’s next stakes are the $125,000 San Gabriel Handicap and the $70,000 Run for the Roses Handicap on New Year’s Day.

Romarin has won only three races the last two years, but two have been the San Gabriel. With 119 pounds, he is Wednesday’s co-high weight with Rainbow Blues, the Irish-bred who has run three solid races for trainer Charlie Whittingham--a win in the Del Mar Derby, third in the Volante Handicap and second in the Hollywood Derby.

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This is the San Gabriel field, in post-position order: Savinio, Sonic Boy, Pinfloron, Eltish, River Deep, Inner City, Gold And Steel, Romarin, Via Lombardia, Rainbow Blues, Mister Alleged and Smooth Runner. Spectal is on the also-eligible list for the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Cat’s Cradle, winner of the California Cup Distaff at Santa Anita and second to Listening in the Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park in her last start, is the high weight, at 122 pounds, in the one-mile Run for the Roses, which drew nine fillies and mares. Radu Cool is next in the weights at 118 pounds.

Horse Racing Notes

Chris McCarron rode the winner of the La Brea for the fifth time. . . . Eddie Delahoussaye begins a five-day suspension Tuesday. . . . Apprentice Royston Ffrench’s win with Imallzealedup Sunday was his first at Santa Anita. He won one race at Hollywood Park. . . . Jockeys Gary Stevens and Corey Nakatani will be riding Friday in a $1.4-million race in Saudi Arabia. . . . King Of The Heap, winner of the Malibu on opening day, is headed for the San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 11. . . . Jewel Princess, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, is a probable for the Santa Maria Stakes on Feb. 16. . . . Trainer Wayne Lukas, who finished 1-2 in the Hollywood Starlet, is splitting up those fillies this winter. Sharp Cat, who won the race, will remain at Santa Anita and run in the Santa Ysabel on Jan. 11, while City Band is scheduled to begin a campaign at Gulfstream Park next Saturday. . . . A Matter Of Style, a $6,250 claim of trainer Don Porter’s, ran for $20,000 and won at Golden Gate Fields Sunday, giving him seven in a row. Six of the victories have come since Porter claimed the 3-year-old gelding.

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