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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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