ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 21, 2015)–Fresh off victory in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint, owner James (Mattress Mac) McIngvale’s Runhappy heads a field of seven in Santa Anita’s Opening Day headliner, the Grade I, $300,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.
Although the Sprint was Runhappy’s third consecutive graded stakes victory and fifth win in-a-row overall, trainer Maria Borell was terminated the morning after the Sprint on Nov. 1, following an apparent disagreement as to how the son of Super Saver would be managed that morning at Keeneland. As a result, the colt’s original conditioner, Laura Wohlers, is once again the trainer of record.
Ridden to victory in his last three starts by the recently injured Edgar Prado, Runhappy will be handled for the first time in the Malibu by Gary Stevens, who has two lifetime Malibu wins to his credit. Blessed with eye catching speed, Runhappy’s lone career try at seven furlongs resulted in a four length triumph three starts back in the Grade I King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 29.
By all accounts, Runhappy has trained sensationally since his Breeders’ Cup win, with two bullet works in Kentucky at a half mile and five furlongs, and he followed those moves up with a bullet five furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:11.80 on Dec. 8. His most recent drill came here on Dec. 15, when he breezed seven furlongs in 1:25.40.
A winner of the Grade II, seven furlong San Vicente Stakes here on Feb. 1, Bob Baffert’s Lord Nelson enters the Malibu fresh, as he’s been idle since running fourth in the Grade III Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs May 2. A Kentucky-bred colt by Pulpit, Lord Nelson is owned by Peachtree Stable and would appear to be a dangerous commodity off the bench. In his only other start at seven furlongs, Lord Nelson ran a close second, two starts back, in the Grade III Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct April 4.
Fourth, beaten 6 ½ lengths by Runhappy in the Grade I King’s Bishop two starts back on Aug. 29, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s lightly raced Watershed comes off a rousing allowance score going seven furlongs at Keeneland on Oct. 15 and has trained well locally since shipping in from South Florida earlier this month.
A first-out maiden allowance winner going six furlongs at Saratoga Aug. 7, the Kentucky-bred colt by Bernardini has won two of his three starts, all in combination with Joel Rosario, who will fly in for the Opening Day assignment. Bred by Darley Stud and owned by their Godolphin Racing, LLC, Watershed is out of the Dubai Millenium mare Thousand Islands.
McLaughlin will also send out another lightly raced colt by Bernardini, Godolphin’s home-bred Marking, who cuts back from a 5 ½ length allowance win going a mile on Nov. 4 at Aqueduct and is undefeated in two starts. Regular rider Jose Lezcano will ship in to stick with Marking, who drew post position two.
The prestigious Malibu, which will be run for the 64th time on Saturday, has been won by a number of legendary horses, including A Gleam (1953), Round Table (1957), Hillsdale (1958), Native Diver (1962), Buckpasser (1966), Damascus (1968), Ancient Title (1974), Spectacular Bid (1980), Ferdinand (1986) and Shared Belief (2014).
The complete field for the Malibu, to be run as the eighth race on a nine-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Pain and Misery, Tyler Baze, 118; Marking, Jose Lezcano, 118; Watershed, Joel Rosario, 118; Runhappy, Gary Stevens, 123; El Kabeir, Mike Smith, 118; Bad Read Sanchez, Mario Gutierrez, 118, and Lord Nelson, Rafael Bejarano, 118.
First post time on Opening Day is at 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.