- RUNHAPPY MALIBU MATCHUP HIGHLIGHTS OPENING DAY
- BAFFERT HAS FOUR SET TO RUN IN LA BREA
- JOHNNY V. ON MUCHO GUSTO IN SAN ANTONIO
- SPIELBERG’S NEXT ROLE IN LEWIS ON JAN. 30
- POPULAR BETTING MENU HAS VALUE, VARIETY
- SHOWVIVOR CONTEST BACK AT SANTA ANITA
CHARLATAN VS. NASHVILLE IN GRADE I RUNHAPPY MALIBU
Charlatan, one in a battalion of bluebloods based in Bob Baffert’s bountiful barn, faces off against Nashville in the Grade I Runhappy Malibu Stakes on opening day, Saturday, Dec. 26, the marquee event as historic Santa Anita ushers in its 84th season of world-class racing.
This year’s Malibu is arguably one of the most anticipated in the classic event’s 70 runnings, pitting two immensely talented sons of 2004 Eclipse Award champion male sprinter Speightstown against one another.
The Malibu has been won in the past by a Who’s Who of Thoroughbreds, among them Runhappy (2015), Ferdinand (1986), Precisionist (1984), Spectacular Bid (1980), Ancient Title (1974), Damascus (1968), Buckpasser (1966) Native Diver (1962), Olden Times (1961), Hillsdale (1958), Round Table (1957) Determine (1955) and Calumet Farm’s star filly A Gleam (1953).
Last year it was won by star-crossed Omaha Beach, whose potential for further greatness on the track ended when he was retired to stud after a filling in his right hind leg prevented him from running in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 25 of this year.
Santa Anita’s traditional opening day is saturated with stakes, six in all, three of them Grade I’s: the $300,000 Malibu for three-year-olds at seven furlongs; the $300,000 La Brea for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs; and the $300,000 American Oaks for three-year-old fillies at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
The Malibu, La Brea and American Oaks are the final three Grade I stakes to be run in the United States this year.
First post time on opening day will be 11 a.m.
Charlatan, a $700,000 chestnut colt, finished first in each of his three starts by a combined margin of 22 lengths but was disqualified from his six-length triumph in a division of the Grade I Arkansas Derby May 2 on a medication violation. He has not raced since but is firing bullets for his return, a display as synonymous with Baffert as his signature white hair.
Saturday at Santa Anita, Charlatan worked five furlongs in 59.80, a tad off the time of Malibu contender Independence Hall, who went the same distance in a bullet 59 flat for Michael McCarthy.
Nashville, a bay colt trained by Steve Asmussen, also has had three starts, winning by a combined margin of nearly 25 lengths, including the restricted Perryville at Keeneland by 3 ½ lengths on Nov. 7 in which he set a track record for six furlongs of 1:07.89. He has been working brilliantly since, including a bullet five furlongs in a minute flat, breezing, at Fair Grounds on Dec. 1.
Nashville is owned by China Horse Club and WinStar Farm and was bought for $460,000 by CHC and Maverick Racing, the purchasing arm of WinStar, from the Lane’s End consignment to the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
He will be ridden by 28-year-old Ricardo Santana Jr. from the Panamanian town of El Chorrillo. Santana, a 2008 graduate of the Laffit Pincay Jr. school for jockeys in Panama, also will do honors for Asmussen on Finite in the La Brea.
Through Dec. 6, Baffert led all trainers in Grade I wins this year with 15, four more than Chad Brown.
“Charlatan is doing really well,” said Baffert, who will be seeking his fourth Malibu victory, having won in 2018 with McKinzie, 2013 with Shakin It Up and 2011 with The Factor. “You can only do so much coming off a layoff going seven eighths…
“He’s healthy and that’s the main thing; he should run well.”
Baffert had to stop on Charlatan after May 2 due to a minor filling in a front ankle that he described at the time as “not even a flake.”
Baffert also plans to run multiple graded stakes winner Thousand Words in the Malibu with John Velazquez aboard. Thousand Words last raced Oct. 3 in the Preakness, finishing eighth after pressing the pace. The son of Pioneerof the Nile has been working lights out for the Malibu, as two bullet breezes on Nov. 12 and Nov. 28 would attest, in addition to his five-furlong drill Friday in 59.80.
Strongly supporting the Malibu, La Brea and American Oaks are the Grade II, $200,000 San Antonio Stakes for three-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles, a major steppingstone to the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 6; the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile for three-year-olds on turf; and the grassy $75,000 Lady of Shamrock Stakes for three-year-old fillies at a mile. Overall, $1,375,000 in stakes money will be up for grabs.
Baffert has four horses nominated to the La Brea and plans to run all four: Merneith, who worked five furlongs Saturday in 59.80; Golden Principal, Himiko and Provocation. Himiko breezed four furlongs in 48 flat and Provocation in 47.40, both on Sunday, while Golden Principal went six furlongs Friday in 1:13.20.
Santa Anita’s stakes spectacular continues on Sunday with the Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf and the $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes for two-year-olds at a mile on the grass.
VELAZQUEZ ON MUCHO GUSTO FOR BAFFERT IN SAN ANTONIO
John Velazquez, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Santa Anita Derby runner-up Authentic for Bob Baffert, will ride Mucho Gusto for the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer in Saturday’s San Antonio Stakes, agent Ron Anderson said.
Mucho Gusto worked six furlongs Sunday in a bullet 1:12.80.
Anderson also represents Joel Rosario, who will ride regularly at Santa Anita prior to Keeneland’s spring meet that starts April 1, an established schedule that has been successful for them in the past.
Through Dec. 6, Rosario led all riders in Grade I stakes victories with 11, two more than runner-up Luis Saez.
“Johnny V.,” as Velazquez is commonly known, has been a member of the Hall of Fame since 2012, earned an Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding jockey in 2004 and 2005 and was winner of Santa Anita’s prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2009.
On Nov. 3, 2018 at Aqueduct, the 49-year-old native of Puerto Rico recorded his 6,000th career victory in North America aboard Singapore Trader for one of his major patrons, trainer Todd Pletcher.
BAFFERT DIRECTS SPIELBERG TO LEWIS FOR NEXT START
Bob Baffert has Spielberg ticketed for Santa Anita’s Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Jan 30 following his audacious nose victory in Saturday’s Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity, which Baffert won for the seventh straight time.
Baffert has captured the Los Al Futurity every year since it was moved from Hollywood Park to the Cypress track in 2014, and this was the 13th time he has won it overall.
Another victory would match Charlie Whittingham’s amazing mark of 14 wins in the same stakes, which The Bald Eagle achieved in the grassy San Juan Capistrano marathon at Santa Anita.
Rallying on the outside in Los Al’s long stretch, Spielberg got up in the last bob under Flavien Prat to shade the longest shot in the field of six, 33-1 maiden The Great One, in a photo so close Baffert wasn’t sure he won until his number six was posted.
“I was watching it live from a bad angle,” Baffert said, “so I looked at the TV but the horses had already hit the wire. I asked out loud, ‘Did I get beat?’ and some little guy nearby kept saying, ‘The six, the six.’
“I didn’t know. I was asking everybody.”
WORTHWHILE WAGERING MENU HAS WIDE APPEAL
Santa Anita’s comprehensive betting menu for the winter/spring meet that starts Dec. 26 will again spotlight the popular 20-cent Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot and a myriad of other features, including a North America-low takeout of 15.43 percent on $2 win, place and show wagers.
Although Santa Anita remains closed to the public due to continued restrictions relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, fans can view the track’s live races free of charge via santaanita.com/live and watch and wager on a variety of ADW platforms including 1st.com/Bet.
In addition to the 20-cent Rainbow Pick Six, Santa Anita will again offer the 50-cent Early Pick 5, which features a low 14 percent takeout, as well as the 50-cent Late Pick 5.
With the Jackpot provision in place, the 20-cent Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six requires a perfect single ticket in order to key a potentially life-altering payoff. Providing there is no single ticket winner, consolation tickets with the highest number of winners receive a payoff of 70 percent of the net pool. The remaining 30 percent is carried over to a Jackpot pool which will continue to accrue until there is a single ticket winner or there is a designated mandatory payoff day.
The $1 Stronach Five will be offered each Friday and consist of a fast-paced series of five races from Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Laurel Park and Golden Gate Fields. The bet offers players a low takeout of 12 percent.
Santa Anita will continue to offer the $5 Golden Hour Double and the Golden Hour Pick 4, embracing late races from Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields.
Additionally, there will be $1 exactas, $2 rolling Daily Doubles. 50-cent rolling Pick 3s, an early 50-cent Pick 4 and 10-cent Superfectas on all races with a minimum of six runners.
Also, the 50-cent Jackpot Super High Five is again available in all races with seven or more declared starters. The wager required players to select the first five finishers in each race in exact order. In those races that do no produce a single ticket winner, 75 percent of the net pool will be paid on those tickets that correctly selected five winners, with 25 percent of the net pool carried over to the next Jackpot Super High Five race.
For additional information, visit santaanita.com or call 626 574-RACE.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita’s popular free online “Showvivor” returns opening day with a new Total Win Earnings category and a Monthly Contest provision which will be included in the existing season-long total prize money awarded of $5,000. The contest offers a variety of cash incentives highlighted by the $2,500 top prize, which will be awarded to the longest “Show Streak” over the course of the entire Winter/Spring season which concludes on June 20. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call 626 574-RACE . . . Trainer Steve Knapp, a 64-year-old Los Angeles native whose barn has shown a resurgence since he built it back up to 26 head, approaching his number in 2005 when he won the Oak Tree training title with 16 victories, has former claimer Loud Mouth ticketed for the $150,000 California Cup Sprint on Jan. 16 and a possible meeting with trainer Dean Pederson‘s crack Cal-bred sprinter Fashionably Fast. Bred by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, Loud Mouth won his first added money event when he scored a 13-1 upset under Abel Cedillo in the Cary Grant Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 22. Loud Mouth posted one of 161 recorded works at Santa Anita this morning–23 on the training track–going four furlongs in 48.40, while Fashionably Fast worked six furlongs Sunday with regular rider Tiago Pereira up in 1:13.40. Pereira won the 10th and final race at the Los Alamitos meet Sunday for Knapp’s principal client, Ron Thomsen, on favored Mama Superior ($4.60). Thomsen also owns Loud Mouth . . . Reminder, there is an early first post time of 11 a.m. opening day, Saturday, Dec. 26. First post time Sunday, Dec. 27, will be 12:30 p.m.
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