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Weekend Stake Tip: Recapping Some Caps (I’m Boring)

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I didn’t handicap any weekend races due to the holiday— instead I went with the mid-week Malibu (I) at Santa Anita. The race was not horrible, and is actually a nod in my favor that I am headed in the right direction. While The Lumber Guy had been formidable all year, I knew he did not look right and threw him out of the top spot. He went off at around even-money but finished a dead-tired 7th, beaten some 6 lengths. Top pick Unbridled’s Note rallied three-wide but missed the win by 3 lengths while the victor took advantage of the fast track and pace. Jimmy Creed wound up being the horse who took the strategy I had in mind for Unbridled’s Note. Runner-up Private Zone lasted up front against The Lumber Guy, but he wasn’t ready for a G1 win just yet. My third pick Politicallycorrect never got going and finished 9th. Jimmy Creed was a good pick all-around— he really just got unlucky in a lot of good races!— but got ignored as did Private Zone which kind of surprised me. I didn’t look at the filly race much at all in the La Brea (I), but figured My Miss Aurelia needed more space than 7 furlongs. She’s just too big a horse and everyone was going to try to wear her down at a distance much too short for her big body.

Weekend races were generally pretty cruddy; Daytona was rained off the turf, Gulfstream’s Mr. Prospector had yet another small and uninteresting field. I don’t know if I would regard Jimmy Creed as a top sprinter just yet, but he’s a future wiseguy pick.

I would also like to mention in another nod to smart show betting, the failure to make the top 3 for The Lumber Guy and allowance runner Super Ninety Nine in each of their respective races resulted in excellent show pool returns. The allowance winner Distinctiv Passion, who went off at 3-1, returned more for the show than for the place with $6.60 ($5.40 place). It would be wise to keep this “Breeders’ Cup bounce” in mind for next year.

I was going to handicap today’s card at Gulfstream, but after the scratch of two horses including Purple Egg in the Gulfstream Park Derby, I will look for a more interesting card later in the week to do. I only handicapped the first race… a $12.5 claimer… and to my astonishment, I did pretty well! I picked the winner Don’tgetmestarted and my third choice Beltram improved to be third like I thought he would! I had Simon’s a Winner pegged for second— the Exchange Rate line spawns early risers!— but he got 5th for his debut race. NOT BAD, I literally haven’t done a single claimer for about a year now.

The Lumber Guy Headlines Thick Malibu Field

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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

3) Politicallycorrect

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

Runaway Malibu Stakes (II) winner The Factor hopes to keep Bob Baffert’s hot streak rolling when he faces off against Amazombie in this Saturday’s San Carlos (II) feature race at Santa Anita.

Runaway Malibu Stakes (II) winner The Factor hopes to keep Bob Baffert’s hot streak rolling when he faces off against Amazombie in this Saturday’s San Carlos (II) feature race at Santa Anita.

Smash, Factor Headline the Malibu

Nope, Coil needs more time after all as well as listed “possible” Casper’s Touch, who is slowly crawling his way back to the races. However, the field for the Malibu Stakes is still large and interesting, pitting many improving horses as well as proven winners looking for a shiny new G1 win.

Steve Asmussen will try his chances with 3 entries, led by the spry three-year-old Wine Police. Bob Baffert will also offer up another trio of eligibles led by Kaleem Shah’s Smash.

$300,000 Malibu Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 7 furlongs on dirt at Santa Anita Park. Post Time: Monday, December 26 at 4:35pm PST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) El Pocho [CHI] - Kevin Krigger, 118 lbs, Ruben Cardenas - A little exotic play to the field, this three-year-old Storm Cat grandson doesn’t have a whole lot of info on him and has only been tested in two starts: winning one, coming in second in the other for just over $12,000 in earnings. Is this the right race? I don’t have enough clues to cast judgement, but it should be interesting to watch.

2) Centralinteligence - Joel Rosario, 118 lbs, Ron Ellis - A late probable to the game and a three-year-old by Smarty Jones, he was second last out in an allowance race to Smash. Not a bad horse, but an improving one in sharp company. Joel Rosario ought to help his chances of getting a good trip.

3) Luckarack - Hector Berrios, 118 lbs, Doug O’Neill - A surprisingly steady and long record matches this Lucky Pulpit three-year-old nicely, with efforts mainly focused on 6 furlongs. He is winless in 3 starts at Santa Anita, but was second in an ungraded stakes in August over 7 furlongs. His best distance seems to be 6 furlongs, which causes a little worry for me with such a big leap up in class.

4) Rothko - Corey Nakatani, 118 lbs, Steve Asmussen - Asmussen’s secret weapon, this son of Arch is ready to test stakes waters after three consecutive allowance wins at sprinter distances. He’s been working phenomenally at Santa Anita, dashing through 5 panels recently in :59 4/5. I’ve got my eye on him to nail the board.

5) Racing Aptitude - Mike Smith, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - The Donald Dizney-Bob Baffert bromance continues (First Dude)! The son of Aptitude easily upset the the ungraded Yo Eleven Stakes at Hollywood after struggling with longer distances for some time. An exciting type of underdog, I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does next. 

6) Hoorayforhollywood - Garrett Gomez, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - A speedy Storm Cat three-year-old, he’s been working excellent for the race with 5 furlongs in :59 1/2. He’s beaten Rothko at SA before in an allowance, but has come up short in the past to Smash. Honestly I think this horse has been tuned up since his last start at a mile in October and has been nuzzling in the dark since his debut for the sprinter class. He’s raring to go: Hoorayforhollywood for the win!

7) Light Up the Score - Victor Espinoza, 118 lbs, Steve Asmussen - Asmussen’s third wheel, by the looks of it. An Unbridled’s Song grandson, his best effort was a second place in a 6-furlong maiden special weight back in September at Belmont. I smell a field filler.

8) Smash [pictured] - Rafael Bejarano, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - Following a lay-off, Smash came back to the races with a good win in an allowance race at Hollywood Park. He’s obviously one of Baffert’s current best three-year-olds next to Coil and The Factor. Boasting only wins and seconds, he’s obviously a good horse, but is he ready for this stakes race so soon?

9) Associate - Ramon Dominguez, 118 lbs, Rick Dutrow - A multi-surface specialist, Associate hasn’t been truly tested in a particular trade. The Wando colt is 3-for-3 at 7 furlongs, although two of those wins were in claiming races. This one worries me. How does a $35k claimer go from plodding around to achieving an almost 40-point Beyer figure jump just by switching trainers? Oh yeah: Rick Dutrow.

10) Wine Police - Joe Talamo, 118 lbs, Steve Asmussen - One of my favorite three-year-olds in the spring, this Speightstown colt sure likes the sprints, falling off the board to fourth only once in 7 starts. This will be his western debut as well as his second attempt to win at 7 furlongs. Not counting on him to win, though I would love to see him do well. A very talented colt, I think this will be an improving race for him.

11) The Factor - Martin Garcia, 123 lbs, Bob Baffert - The winner of the Pat O’Brien Handicap (I), The Factor settles back to a much better distance for him after coming in 8th last out while setting the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I). A horse that seems to be keen on the speed, he’s bound to shoot out immediately to grab the lead as usual, but will need to keep in check if he expects to do well. With a spot on the outside and a good history already at Santa Anita, though, I think he’ll fare well enough to make a second or the win here. The Breeders’ Cup bounce might affect him though, so I wouldn’t dump too much dough on his low odds.

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Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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