COMEBACKING CHARLATAN RALLIES TO TAKE GRADE I, $300,000 RUNHAPPY MALIBU STAKES BY 4 ½ LENGTHS AS BAFFERT & SMITH TEAM FOR SEVEN FURLONG WIN IN 1:21.50
ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 26, 2020)–Idle since May 2, Bob Baffert’s Charlatan tracked favored Nashville to the quarter pole in Santa Anita’s marquee opening day event Saturday, the Grade I, $300,000 RUNHAPPY Malibu Stakes and from there it was all Charlatan as he drew off to a tremendous 4 ½ length victory that could project him into a Horse of the Year conversation in the New Year. Ridden for the first time by Mike Smith, Charlatan, a magnificent chestnut colt by Speightstown, out of the Quiet American mare Authenticity, got seven furlongs in 1:21.50.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Nashville was the talk of the racing world on Breeders’ Cup Classic Day, Nov. 7 at Keeneland, as he sped to a track record time of 1:07.80 in an ungraded six furlong stakes and was thus unbeaten coming into the Malibu, having won his three starts by a combined 24 ¾ lengths. Today, facing pressure throughout from Charlatan, he tired through the stretch to finish fourth, beaten 8 ¼ lengths at 6-5.
The second choice at 8-5, Charlatan paid $5.20, $3.60 and $2.60.
“First of all, my hat’s off to Bob and his whole crew to get this horse ready off an eight-month layoff,” said Smith, who along with Baffert, collected his fourth career Malibu win. “To run against these types of horses was a feat itself, but I always thought he was a special horse…When Bob told me I got the call, man I’ve been kind of on cloud nine ever since.”
Owned by SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC, Frederick Hertich III, John Fielding and Golconda Stables, Charlatan entered the Malibu unbeaten on the racetrack in three starts, however, his most recent victory in a division of the Arkansas Derby, was taken away due to a medication violation, so his record coming in was officially two wins from three starts.
Based at Santa Anita, Charlatan is now three for four officially and with the winner’s share of $180,000, he has earnings of $247,200.
“They were rolling early, there was a really good horse he was chasing,” said Baffert. “With what this horse has been through, I’m just happy for the whole team and everybody involved, to show he is a really special horse. Hopefully, we will have a good (New) year with him.”
Baffert then took a moment to reflect on 2020.
“This has been one of the better years I’ve ever had really,” he said. I actually won 17 (Grade I stakes) and the one in Oaklawn, I can’t count that one yet. It was a roller coaster. We are so grateful the races opened up and we got to run these great horses…I have a great team behind me and great ownerships with wonderful people. They stuck by me with all the negative stuff, you need that support.
“Our job is to get results and that’s what it’s all about…For Santa Anita, it’s a shame that there wasn’t 30 to 40,000 people in the stands today…But it’s one of those things you know, we are here.”
Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Express Train was last early and rallied to be second by a half length over a fast finishing Collusion Illusion. Off at 16-1, Express Train, conditioned by John Shirreffs, paid $13.40 and $6.00.
Breaking from the rail, Collusion Illusion made up much ground late to be third, finishing 3 ¼ lengths in front of Nashville. Ridden by Flavien Prat, Collusion Illusion was off at 10-1 and paid $3.00 to show.
Fractions on the race were 21.81, 43.95 and 1:08.54.