With owners and trainers nationwide looking for one last chance to run in a Grade I stakes restricted to 3-year-olds, Santa Anita's seven furlong, $300,000 Malibu Stakes has attracted an extraordinary cast of 16 sophomores (14 to run, with two on the also eligible list) headed by Bob Baffert's McKinzie on opening day, Wednesday, Dec. 26.
One of five horses entered by Baffert, two-time Grade I winner McKinzie will cut back in distance following a 31-length drubbing at the hands of Horse of the Year candidate Acclerate going a mile and a quarter in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Steve Asmussen's talented Copper Bullet and Dale Romans' Seven Trumpets head a solid group of six Eastern shippers in what shapes up as an epic renewal of Santa Anita's signature opening day feature for 3-year-old males.
Owner: Karl Watson, Mike Pegram & Paul Weitman
Trainer: Bob Baffert
A smashing 5 ½ length first-out maiden winner going seven furlongs in October, 2017, this gifted son of Street Sense enters the Malibu with the most accomplished resume and biggest bankroll. A winner via disqualification of the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity in his second start, he galloped by 3 ½ lengths in Santa Anita's Grade III Sham Stakes on Jan. 6 of this year and was subsequently disqualified from victory in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 10. Forced off the Derby Trail due to a minor ailment, McKinzie resurfaced in the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 22, and responded with an authoritative 1 ¾ length victory. Off at 7-2 in the Breeders' Cup Classic, McKinzie faltered badly after the first half mile, but he's bounced back well with a solid work tab to his credit, including a bullet five furlongs here on Dec. 10 of 59.20—best of 64 at the distance. With an overall mark of 6-4-1-0, he has earnings of $906,000. He'll be ridden for the seventh consecutive time on Wednesday by “Big Money” Mike Smith.
Owner: Slam Dunk Racing
Trainer: Michael McCarthy
Highly accomplished in his own right, Santa Anita-based Axelrod comes off a ninth place finish, beaten eight lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 3 and returns home to Santa Anita following four out of town races; victories in the Grade III Indiana Derby July 14 and the Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes Aug. 25, a close second to McKinzie in the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 22 and his ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic. A one mile maiden $50,000 claiming winner in his second start on Aug. 30, 2017 at Del Mar, this Florida-bred colt by Warrior's Reward, who was purchased as an Ocala Winter Yearling for $25,000, has flourished under McCarthy's guidance, posting an 11-4-2-1 record, good for earnings of $732,925.
Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds, LLC & Willis Horton Racing, LLC
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Fresh off a scintillating gate to wire allowance score going seven furlongs on Nov. 23 at Churchill Downs, this Kentucky-bred colt by More Than Ready could be the “now” horse in the Malibu lineup. A four length winner of the Grade II, 6 ½ furlong Saratoga Special in his fourth start on Aug. 13, 2017, Copper Bullet was subsequently sidelined until resurfacing last month at Churchill. Although based in Kentucky, he's been on the grounds here at Santa Anita with Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi since early this month and has three recorded drills over Santa Anita's main track. With three wins and two seconds from five starts, he'll be ridden for the first time on Wednesday by Jose Ortiz.
Owner: West Point Thoroughbreds
Trainer: Dale Romans
A well beaten eighth in the Grade I Breeder's Cup Dirt Mile Nov. 3, this Kentucky-bred colt by Morning Line will be making his 10th start of the year in the Malibu and his second start at seven furlongs. A solid second, beaten 2 ¼ lengths at seven furlongs three races back in the Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Stakes Aug. 25 at Saratoga, Seven Trumpets has been graded stakes placed on three occasions this year and seeks his first Grade I victory in the Malibu. Currently based at Gulfstream Park, he has an overall mark of 12-3-3-1, with earnings of $400,600 and will be handled by regular rider Robby Albarado.
THE GRADE I MALIBU, WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 9 of 10
Approximate post time 3:30 p.m. PT.
- Calexman—Geovanni Franco—120
- Majestic Dunhill—Manuel Franco—120
- Copper Bullet—Jose Ortiz—120
- Still Having Fun—Kent Desormeaux—122
- Identity Politics—Irad Ortiz, Jr.–120
- Axelrod—John Velazquez—122
- Seven Trumpets—Robby Albarado—120
- Nero—Joe Talamo—120
- Ax Man—Drayden Van Dyke—120
- Bobby's Wicked One—Tyler Gaffalione—120
- Greyvitos—Evin Roman—120
- Kanthaka—Flavien Prat—122
- McKinzie—Mike Smith—124
- Solomini—Joel Rosario—120
Super Sol—Brian Hernandez, Jr.—120
Cool Bobby—Rafael Bejarano—120
First post time for a 10-race card that will include a total of five stakes, four of them graded, is at 11:30 a.m. For additional information, please visit www.santaanita.com/live-racing or call (626) 574-RACE
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