Three-year-old returning horses, improvers, and Breeders’ Cup participants all line up for one last restricted G1 in Santa Anita’s fastest Wednesday of the year, featuring a 7-furlong double-header in the Malibu (I) for sophomore colts and the La Brea (I) for fillies. Richard Mandella hopes to land a record third win in this race while Bob Baffert hopes to replicate his win last year with The Factor by entering 4 promising colts of his own.
Rain doesn’t look likely, so expect a fast track.
$300,000 Malibu Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 7 furlongs on dirt at Santa Anita. Post Time: Wednesday, December 26 at 3:37pm PST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Fed Biz - Mike Smith, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - The fleet-footed Giant’s Causeway colt hopes to bounce back off a poor 8th place showing in the Dirt Mile (I), with 2 wins in 4 starts this year. He takes a cut-back in distance here, which should be no problem as he likes to remain just off-the-pace. The rail spot will likely aid Fed Biz’s strategy to go to the front, but his Dirt Mile performance was too poor to excuse. His works have been blazing lately, clicking through a 5-panel work in :58 flat. I would not pick him for anything but fast dirt, but do consider him because of the cutback and good work.
2) Jimmy Creed - Garrett Gomez, 118 lbs, Richard Mandella - The Distorted Humor colt looked like he got stuck and was spinning his wheels when 9th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (I). Leading up to that race, he was one that was on the improving path and kept everyone of all ages on their toes running against him. The presence of Gomez/Mandella is comforting, and the value is there since he is as good as Fed Biz but with no stakes wins yet. He got a race distance blowout last week.
3) Drill - Martin Garcia, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - The San Vicente (II) winner returns with a vengeance after some time off to his preferred distance. He’s been working well at Santa Anita, and comes off a 7-month layoff since his win in the Lazaro Barrera Memorial (III) at Hollywood Park. Drill likes to throw in clunkers at weird times, but this is his stomping ground. I don’t expect him to improve AND win after a layoff, but it’s interesting that he’s been given to Baffert’s go-to guy Garcia.
4) The Lumber Guy - John Velazquez, 123 lbs, Neil Drysdale - Runner-up to Trinniberg in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (I), the flashy gray son of Grand Slam has been relentless this year at the sprint distance while remaining pretty competitive going further. He likes the front, and has already shown he doesn’t mind slop or Santa Anita’s main. Transferred to Drysdale and toting Johnny V, I can honestly say I don’t like the look of him, especially compared to the 5 extra pounds he’ll be carrying against most entries and how much slower he’s been going lately under encouragement. It’s a bet not worth taking, especially since he’ll be a heavy favorite.
5) Politicallycorrect - Joel Rosario, 118 lbs, Wesley Ward - Sporting back-to-back wins including the 7-furlong Damascus Stakes on Breeders’ Cup Saturday, the Kitten’s Joy gelding has bloomed late under speed specialist Ward. He has a nice closing style that has enabled him to catch top speed horses in the lane like Willy Beamin and Private Zone. Sure to be overlooked, he’s not your typical 7-furlong specialist but he could manage some magic here under a fast and draining pace.
6) Basmati - Mario Guiterrez, 118 lbs, Doug O’Neill - The Borrego colt took a long break and reemerged a big winner on Breeders’ Cup Saturday, wiring a 7-furlong allowance in lively fractions in his one and only start of the year. The class bump-up is huge as good as he looked in his last start. He doesn’t look quick enough at the moment to handle this field.
7) Castaway - Joe Talamo, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - The Street Sense colt returns after an 8-month layoff with 2 career wins— but in routes. The cutback may or may not help this colt, who has won races on or just off a solid pace. To his credit, he does look fit in his works, firing a bullet in :58 1/5 last time around Santa Anita, but he would need to improve quite a bit to make headway. 104 fresh
8) Private Zone - Martin Pedroza, 120 lbs, Doug O’Neill - The Macho Uno son has won just once this year in 10 starts, but has been second 3 times and third once so he is pretty consistent. He missed by a length last out against Smiling Tiger in the Vernon Underwood (III) while dueling and then was caught by Politicallycorrect before that in the Damascus Stakes. A pretty consistent horse who keeps getting close to that win, I would not be surprised to see him finally break through here.
9) Guilt Trip - Rafael Bejarano, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - The Pulpit colt transfers from the Brown barn to Baffert’s with 2 wins this year out of 4 starts (I’m elated to see that I actually saw him debut at Saratoga!). He flattened out in the 9-furlong Discovery (III) last time out to finish 5th, but has been working like a charm since shipping out west. Bred similarly to Bernardini, the cutback will likely help but I’m not totally sold it will be the magic key here.
10) Unbridled’s Note - Corey Nakatani, 118 lbs, Steve Asmussen - Runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (I), the talented Unbridled’s Song colt has been on the board 5 times in 7 races this year with 2 wins. He can do dirt as well, running a close 3rd in the King’s Bishop (I) over 7 furlongs this summer and likes to race off-the-pace. Works look good and he should favor the conditions. Hopefully he can get a better trip than in the King’s Bishop and ace this test.
Top Picks in Order:
1) Unbridled’s Note
2) The Lumber Guy
The one to beat here is The Lumber Guy, and I say he’s beatable and not worth taking at what will surely be very short odds— particularly if it’s a dry, fast track and with the transfer to Drysdale. Unbridled’s Note looks like he’s improving and could pounce just off of a hot pace up front. From there I’ve kept class act The Lumber Guy pegged for the place, and Politicallycorrect has had some good tactical speed on this track to be another good candidate. I just don’t like the look of a lot of Breeders’ Cup contenders coming into this race off of peak-time efforts, so I’m shying away from using top-shelf horses; Unbridled’s Note was on the improving path when he was barely beaten out for the Turf Sprint win, and a speed duel might develop between Private Zone and Fed Biz.
Value Pick: Politicallycorrect