STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

• GRADE I MALIBU STAKES CAN LEAD TO BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS

• FOUR HORSES IN ONE RACE DOESN’T GUARANTEE WIN FOR BAFFERT

• AGENT EXPECTS IMPROVEMENT FROM THE FACTOR IN MALIBU

• STREAKING ULTIMATE EAGLE HAS OPTIONS IN SIR BEAUFORT

MALIBU A STEPPINGSTONE TO GREATER GLORY, STEVENS SAYS

Not only is the Grade I Malibu Stakes one of the most important sprints on the racing landscape, it can lead to greater gold and glory down the road.

So says Gary Stevens, retired Hall of Fame jockey, three-time Kentucky Derby winner, actor who has a prominent role in HBO’s soon-to-be released LUCK and who now lends his expertise as racing analyst for HRTV and NBC.

“Let’s put it this way: if you’re riding the right horse and you’re looking down the road for the Strub or possibly the Santa Anita Handicap, the seven furlongs of the Malibu is the perfect distance and the perfect time of the year to move a horse forward, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to ride the race,” said Stevens, who won the 2004 Malibu on Rock Hard Ten and in 1992 on Star Of The Crop.

“If you’re riding the right type of horse that can run long, you’ve got to ride him a certain way, you’ve got to be patient and make sure he’s finishing. A sprinter may win it, but if a sprinter wins it, he’s not necessarily the horse for the Strub.

“The Malibu is very prestigious and great in its own right, but it’s a steppingstone. Take Silver Charm. He didn’t win it (second by a half-length to Lord Grillo in 1997), but I knew I was sitting on a horse that was going to do some big things the rest of the year, and he did.”

The field for the Malibu, which goes as the ninth and final race on opening day: El Pocho, Kevin Krigger, 50-1; Centralinteligence, Joel Rosario, 8-1; Luckarack, Hector Berrios, 30-1; Rothko, Corey Nakatani, 9-2; Racing Aptitude, Mike Smith, 8-1; Hoorayforhollywood, Garrett Gomez, 8-1; Light Up the Score, Victor Espinoza, 12-1; Smash, Rafael Bejarano, 9-2; Associate, Ramon Dominguez, 6-1; Wine Police, Joe Talamo, 8-1; and The Factor, Martin Garcia, 7-2.

DESPITE HAVING 75 PERCENT OF THE FIELD, BAFFERT SETTLED FOR SECOND

Bob Baffert has four horses scheduled to start in the Malibu. It’s probably a record for him as a Thoroughbred trainer, but it pales in comparison to his days as a quarter horse conditioner nearly 30 years ago.

“I think it was the Prescott Futurity back in 1982,” said Baffert, his memory understandably a bit fuzzy Friday morning, what with the Christmas holiday upon him, “but I started six of the eight horses in the race and didn’t win it. I finished second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.

“The worst of it was, the horse that won, I had been the trainer of, but the owner took it away from me two weeks before the race.”

AGENT PEGRAM HOPES THE FACTOR REBOUNDS MONDAY

Jim Pegram, who represents jockey Martin Garcia, is hopeful that The Factor, conditioned by Bob Baffert, will rebound in Monday’s Grade I Malibu from a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last month at Churchill Downs.

“He’s been working at Hollywood Park and he’s working good,” said Pegram. “He worked a nice half yesterday in 48 and three and we’re just hoping he runs like he did at Del Mar (where he won the Grade I Pat O’Brien Stakes at seven furlongs). If he runs like he did down there, he can win. If he runs like he did at Churchill, he won’t.”

Pegram noted that Baffert’s colt by War Front had significant obstacles in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. “He had the number one post and the track was off. That hurt his chances, but he just didn’t run that day. I always thought he was a big-time horse and we’re gonna find out on Monday.”

ULTIMATE EAGLE EYES FIFTH STRAIGHT WIN IN SIR BEAUFORT

Ultimate Eagle, outstanding male 3-year-old in Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet Media Poll, seeks his fifth straight win in the Grade II, $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile on grass on opening day, Monday.

Trainer Mike Pender says the son of Mizzen Mast has been training in style and feels the front-running colt could get a stalking spot from his No. 8 post position in a field of nine if the situation presents itself.

“Martin Pedroza knows the horse and he can use his good judgment,” Pender said. Pedroza has ridden the son of Mizzen Mast in his last four races, all victories.

The field for the 12th running of the Sir Beaufort, which goes as the eighth race: Cozy Kitten, Alonso Quinonez, 12-1; Venomous, Joel Rosario, 4-1; Comma to the Top, Joe Talamo, 4-1; Mr. Commons, Mike Smith, 9-5; Thirtyfirststreet, Hector Berrios, 20-1; Irish Art, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1; Moment of Weakness, Kevin Krigger, 30-1; Ultimate Eagle, Martin Pedroza, 3-1; and Riveting Reason, Victor Espinoza, 20-1.

HOLLENDORFER ASSISTANT DAN WARD FEELING NO PAIN AFTER HIP SURGERY

Dan Ward, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, is anxiously awaiting Santa Anita’s 75th winter/spring opening on Monday--pain free.

Ward underwent hip replacement surgery on Nov. 10 at Scripps La Jolla Medical Center and is thrilled with the results.

“I’m 100 percent better,” said Ward from Santa Anita’s grandstand apron on Friday. “We’ve got 40 horses here and believe me, it’s fantastic to be out here working without being in pain.”

Ward noted that Hollendorfer “will be at Santa Anita for all the big races,” and that the barn plans to work a total of 28 horses on Saturday morning.

Hollendorfer has one horse entered for opening day, Johnny Be Mine, a home-bred colt owned by Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams who was a first-out maiden special weight winner at Santa Anita on Oct. 8. The 2-year-old gelding by Johannesburg was subsequently ninth and last at 3-1 in the Golden Nugget Stakes going six furlongs at Golden Gate Fields on Nov. 12.

Johnny Be Mine drew post number four in Monday’s $100,000 California Breeders Champion Stakes at seven furlongs. The Cal Breeders attracted a field of nine.

Ward also indicated that the Williams’ home-bred Rousing Sermon, who was most recently a fast-finishing second in the Grade I CashCall Futurity on Dec. 17, is “probable” for the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4.

The field for the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes: Forever Freedom, Joe Talamo, 10-1; Passing Game, David Flores, 7-2; Got Even, Garrett Gomez, 12-1; Johnny Be Mine, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Motown Men, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Crimson Giant, Modesto Linares, 50-1; Stoney Fleece, Joel Rosario, 5-2; Exotic Slew, Alonso Quinonez, 8-1; and Heart Fever, Corey Nakatani, 12-1.

IT’S MORE THAN ‘LUCK’ WHEN IT COMES TO CARE OF HORSES, CHEW SAYS

It takes more than luck to prepare for HBO’s show of the same name that debuts on Jan. 29. Hard work is a prime ingredient for the much-anticipated event filmed in large part at Santa Anita.

“I was told we’ll begin filming again on the 28th of February,” said trainer Matt Chew, who calls himself the ‘official trainer’ of the horses that appear in LUCK

“I was told they wanted the horses in here 70 days ahead of time for pre-show training,” continued the 51-year-old Chew, who won his first race on July 7, 1982, with a horse named Double Finesse at Pleasanton. “We actually train them after (regular) training hours. Once the track closes here, we take the LUCK horses to the training track to train and try and prepare them for the next season of filming.

“We have 50 horses for LUCK and I’ve got a real good crew. Jamie Cuzick is the man who’s actually running that division and he and I have been friends since 1974. He was galloping horses for Bobby Frankel at the time. Jamie’s galloped horses, he’s trained horses, he’s shod horses, he rode races, so he knows the drill.

“This is a full program with over 22 people involved. HBO wanted it done right. They wanted care of the horses to be like it would be for any other stable on the grounds.”

MALIBU FLASHBACK: FANNING’S LITTLE REB BEATS AFFIRMED!!

Veteran trainer Jerry Fanning, a Santa Anita regular for more than 40 years, has fond memories of the 1979 Malibu Stakes, which was run on Jan. 7. At that time, Fanning was the co-owner and breeder of a fast son of Reb’s Policy named Little Reb.

“Going into that race, everyone knew that Affirmed would be extremely tough to beat,” said Fanning. “He was the (1978) Triple Crown winner and Laz (Barrera) had freshened him for the Santa Anita meet, but I thought we had a shot because my colt had just won up north and he was really sharp at the time. Affirmed had been off a long time (since July 2, ’78) and I really thought we could beat him.” Affirmed, with Steve Cauthen, was the 126 pound high-weight, who drew post position number two, while Little Reb had the rail in a field of five.

“As it turned out, my colt broke sharp and Frank (Olivares) just let him roll. He won easy and it’s a race I’ll never forget. He was a real good horse, but to beat Affirmed the way he did, was unbelievable.”

Little Reb, who carried 120 pounds, won by 2 ¼ lengths, getting the seven furlongs in 1:21. The son of Reb’s Policy paid $13.80 to win and his effort was described thusly by Daily Racing Form’s Trackman, Jay Woodward:

“Little Reb broke smoothly to use his speed and get a clear lead onto the main track, stayed just off the rail while making the pace to the stretch on mostly his own courage, then responded in the final furlong to hold his margin and won in full stride.”

Radar Ahead, with Darrel McHargue aboard, ran second and the great Affirmed, at odds of 1-5, ended up third, beaten 2 ½ lengths.

Affirmed would go on to run second in his next start, the Jan. 20 San Fernando Stakes, his final dance with Cauthen up.

Reeling from two consecutive odds-on defeats, Barrera looked to Laffit Pincay Jr. to get his stable superstar back on track. “The Pirate” as he was known in those days, was designated to ride the Harbor View Farm home-bred in the Grade I Strub Stakes on Feb. 4.

Affirmed and Pincay promptly blistered the track, winning the 1 ¼ miles Strub by 10 lengths while getting the distance in 2:01 over a surface that was labeled “good.” Including the Strub, Pincay powered Affirmed into retirement with six consecutive victories, including the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 4.

FINISH LINES: Craig Dollase has moved his base of operations from Hollywood Park to Santa Anita. “I’ve got all my horses (20) over here now,” said the Sierra Madre resident, who turned 41 on Dec. 8. Dollase, who became the youngest trainer to saddle a Breeders’ Cup winner (27) when Reraise won the Sprint at Churchill Downs in 1998, welcomed his parents, retired trainer Wally and his wife, Cincy, in from Kentucky for the holidays. “They’re out here for a few weeks to visit,” Craig said . . . David Milch, world renowned writer/producer whose credits include the upcoming HBO series, LUCK, will present the trophy to the winning connections of the Malibu Stakes on opening day . . . Turbulent Descent is on course for the Grade I, $300,000 La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs on Dec. 31. “She’s good; she’s ready to go,” trainer Mike Puype said of the Santa Anita Oaks winner. “One more work and we’ll be ready.” That will come at Hollywood Park under regular rider David Flores, who has ridden the Florida-bred daughter of Congrats in all of her nine races, winning six. With $858,350 in earnings and $180,000 guaranteed to the La Brea winner, a victory would make Turbulent Descent a millionaire. Other La Brea probables include Raven Run winner Great Hot, Chantal Sutherland; Home Sweet Aspen, Joel Rosario; May Day Rose, Martin Garcia; Sugarinthemorning, Garrett Gomez; Teddy’s Promise, Victor Espinoza; and Tiz Flirtatious, Rafael Bejarano . . . Joe Talamo has been named to ride 2009 Malibu winner M One Rifle in the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes on Jan. 21. “It was just what we wanted,” trainer Bruce Headley said of M One Rifle’s six furlongs workout at Santa Anita Thursday in 1:13.20. “It wasn’t a bullet, but we got what we wanted.” . . . Training hours return to normal on opening day, from 4:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. Turf works take place on Thursdays and Saturdays, weather permitting.

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