BAFFERT’S FLASHBACK, EASTERN SPEEDSTER BAKKEN HEAD GRADE I MALIBU ON OPENING DAY; GRADE I LA BREA & GRADE II SIR BEAUFORT LEND STRENGTH TO OUTSTANDING NINE-RACE CARD, FIRST POST AT 12 NOON

ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 21, 2013)—Santa Anita’s traditional opening day headliner, the Grade I, $300,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, attracted a field of 12 and will be headed by the Bob Baffert-trained Flashback, who was the beaten favorite in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in April and was considered one of the nation’s top Kentucky Derby prospects. Idle from his second place finish in the Santa Anita Derby April 6 until running second as the favorite in the $100,000 Damascus Stakes Nov. 2, the grey colt by Tapit appears primed for a top effort on Thursday.

Joining Flashback as one of the primary Malibu contenders is the up and coming Bakken, who was an ultra-impressive gate to wire winner going six furlongs at Belmont Park on Oct. 13 and again on Nov. 23 at Aqueduct—both times as the favorite. Trained by Chad Brown, Bakken, a colt by Distorted Humor, was not headed in either win and could be the speed of the Malibu field along with the Jeff Bonde-conditioned Distinctiv Passion.

Owned by Gary and Mary West, Flashback thrust himself into the national spotlight with a 6 ¼ length score in only his second start, the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 2. He has had a steady string of solid works at Santa Anita since his disappointing effort in the Damascus, with his most recent drill a rapid six furlongs from the gate in 1:11.40 on Dec. 16.

Flashback, who will be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario, has two wins and a three seconds from five starts and $377,000 in earnings.

Bakken, who has won his two New York starts by a combined 8 ¾ lengths for owners Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr., was sent to Palm Meadows training center in South Florida following his Nov. 23 win and has three works there, the most recent a half mile in 49.25 on Dec. 20.

Bakken has bagged $91,200 in earnings from his two wins.

Owned by Edward Brown, Jr., Philip Lebherz and Alan Klein, Distinctiv Passion ran a huge third in the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Oct. 5, cutting out blistering splits of 21.40, 43.60 and 55.80. Well seasoned, Distinctive Passion has four wins and four thirds from nine starts and could likely be sent from the gate again by jockey Edwin Maldonado. Distinctive passion has $221,930 in earnings and has been in steady training at Santa Anita with his most recent work a half mile in 46.20 this morning.

Resurgent Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who returned to riding earlier this year following a seven-year retirement, capped a dream-come-true 2013 by winning both the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 1 & 2,. The Caldwell, Idaho native will be ride up and coming Heir of Storm in the Malibu for trainer Peter Miller.

In his first start for Miller on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita, Heir of Storm annihilated 10 rivals at odds of 37-1, winning a seven furlong allowance gate to wire by 4 ½ lengths while earning a career-best Beyer Speed figure of 102. While the main track was favoring front runners, the Florida-bred by Wildcat Heir turned in a vastly improved effort and could be dangerous. Owned by Wachtel Stable or Friedman, Heir of Storm has two wins from seven starts and earnings of $81,750.

The complete field for the Malibu, which will be run as the eighth race on a nine-race card, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Syndicated, Victor Espinoza, 118; Shakin It Up, David Flores, 118; Heir of Storm, Gary Stevens, 118; Flashback, Joel Rosario, 118; Zeewat, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Demonic, Corey Nakatani, 118; Central Banker, Joe Talamo, 118; Holy Lute, Mike Smith, 118; Zee Bros, Martin Garcia, 118; Bakken, Javier Castellano, 118; Distinctiv Passion, Edwin Maldonado, 118 and Our Double Play, Francisco Torres, 123.

GRADE I WINNER SWEET LULU APPEARS PRIMED FOR TOP EFFORT IN GRADE I LA BREA

A game winner of the Grade I, seven furlong Test Stakes Aug. 24 at Saratoga, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Sweet Lulu comes off a fifth place finish behind champion Groupie Doll in the Grade I Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 2 and could be favored in Thursday’s Grade I, $300,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, a race that attracted a field of seven.

Sweet Lulu set early fractions of 22 flat and 44 flat before tiring to finish 5 ¼ lengths behind “Groupie.” Owned by Steve Beneto, Sweet Lulu was undefeated following her Test triumph, her fourth career start. Subsequently second in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing Sept. 21. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Mr. Greeley has been in training for Hollendorfer at Betfair Hollywood Park since her fifth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup, and she worked a half mile this morning in 47 flat.

Sweet Lulu has earnings of $309,317 from an overall mark of 6-4-1-0.

A winner of the Grade I, seven furlong Del Mar Debutante and Grade I Chandelier Stakes at age two, the Bob Baffert-trained Executive Privilege makes her third start of the year in the La Brea.

Second to the highly regarded speedster Reneesgotzip in her seasonal bow July 18 at Del Mar, Executiveprivilge was fourth, beaten 5 ¾ lengths by multiple Grade I winner Teddy’s Promise in the $100,000 L.A. Woman Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 5.

Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Executiveprivilege drilled five furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:00.80 on Dec. 18. A Kentucky-bred filly by the Giant’s Causeway stallion First Samurai, she has earnings of $963,000 from an overall mark of 9-5-2-0.

Trainer Pete Eurton’s Madame Cactus comes off an upset win in the Grade II, seven furlong Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland Oct. 19 and appears to be fresh and dangerous. Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Marc C. Ferrell, the Cactus Ridge filly worked five furlongs out of the gate in a bullet 59.80 at Santa Anita on Dec. 13, and followed that with a half mile in 47.60 this morning.

Madame Cactus has earning of $325,800 from an overall mark of 6-3-2-0.

The complete field for the La Brea Stakes, to be run as race six, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Sweet Lulu, Rafael Bejarano, 123; Heir Kitty, Gary Stevens, 118; Miss Lucky Sevens, Javier Castellano, 118; Executiveprivilege, Mike Smith, 118; Journey On, Martin Pedroza, 118; My Happy Face, Joel Rosario, 118 and Madame Cactus, Joe Talamo, 118.

CALIFORNIA-BRED GERVINHO PROMINENT IN WIDE OPEN GRADE II SIR BEAUFORT STAKES

Devoid of a clear-cut standout, Thursday’s Grade II, $200,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes, for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf, attracted a field of 10 and it appears to be headed by California-bred Gervinho, who has two wins and a second at a mile on grass. The bay colt by Unusual Heat cuts back in distance after running a close fourth in the Grade I, 1 ¼ miles turf Hollywood Derby Dec. 1.

Gervinho’s last win came in the one mile turf restricted Oceanside Stakes on July 17. Subsequent to that, he was a close second and third in a pair of Grade II 1 1/8 mile turf stakes, the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 1 and the Twilight Derby at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.

Trained by Carla Gaines and owned by Keith Brackpool, Gervinho retains the services of Rafael Bejarano, who has been aboard for all three of his career wins. With $302,140 in earnings, the consistent Gervinho is 8-3-2-1 overall.

Glen Hill Farm’s Procurement, a winner of Santa Anita’s La Puente Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf April 21, comes off a sharp allowance score at a mile on turf at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov. 28 and rates a big chance in the Sir Beaufort with Joe Talamo again engaged to ride.

Trained by Tom Proctor, the Florida-bred colt by Milwaukee Brew has enjoyed a productive 2013, winning three times and running second once from 10 starts. With two wins and a second from three tries at a mile on grass, Procurement is a proven commodity under the Sir Beaufort conditions. With a 15-4-1-1 overall mark, he has $201,809 in earnings.

Trainer Simon Callaghan will be well represented in the Sir Beaufort as he sends out No Jet Lag, who, following one mile turf wins in his first two U.S. starts, ran a respectable sixth, beaten six lengths by likely two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 2.

A Kentucky-bred gelding by Johar, No Jet Lag earned a lofty 105 Beyer Speed figure in taking the Grade II City of Hope Mile (turf) two starts back at Santa Anita Oct. 5. Owned by Anthony Ramsden, No Jet Lag will be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario. Campaigned in England for his first seven starts, No Jet Lag is 10-4-1-0, with earnings of $148,782.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who rode No Jet Lag in his last two starts, will instead be aboard the hard-hitting Tom’s Tribute in the Sir Beaufort. Trained by Jim Cassidy, the Kentucky-bred colt by Lion Heart comes off a 2 ¼ length score in the Uniformity Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course Oct. 20 and is bidding for his third consecutive win.

An impressive off the pace allowance winner at a mile on grass Sept. 29, Tom’s Tribute has a win and a second at a mile on grass and is 6-3-2-0 overall. Owned by Tom and Marilyn Braly, he has earnings of $138,980.

The complete field for the Sir Beaufort Stakes, to be run as Thursday’s seventh race, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Outside Nashville, Martin Pedroza, 118; Tiz a Minister, Martin Garcia, 118; Educated Guess, Agapito Delgadillo 118; Dice Flavor, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 123; Horizontalyspeakin, Edwin Maldonado, 118; Gervinho, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Procurement, Joe Talamo, 118; No Jet Lag, Joel Rosario, 123; Tom’s Tribute, Mike Smith, 118 and Si Sage (FR) Kayla Stra (alternate), 118.

Special early first post time on opening day is 12 noon. Santa Anita’s traditional wall calendar will be given to all on-track attendees free of charge with paid General Admission. Santa Anita will also guarantee $500,000 in the opening day Late Pick 4.

For more information or to make reservations, visit santaanita.com, or call (626) 574-RACE.