Grade I Malibu and La Brea Headline Santa Anita Opener Dec. 26
The winter-spring meet opener at Santa Anita is Monday, Dec. 26 and the nine-race program features four graded stakes. A pair of 7 furlong races highlight the card with the $300,000 Malibu (G1) drawing 10 three-year olds and the $300,000 La Brea (G1) contested by 8 three-year-old fillies. The $100,000 San Simeon Stakes (G3) is 6 ½ furlongs on the turf and has a full field of 14 entered, and the final race of the day is the $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile, with 11 runners taking to the turf.
Top challenges in the Malibu include Mind Your Biscuits, who finished 3rd last time out in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. He’s expected to be closing hard from off the pace along with Mor Spirit, who last raced in the Kentucky Derby and finished 10th. Trainer Bob Baffert saddles Mor Spirt, Jazzy Times and Ten Blessings, a course and distance allowance winner on Nov. 4. They will all be chasing a speed horse up front and the likely favorite, Sharp Azteca, who won the Pat Day Mile at Churchill on Kentucky Derby Day and won a minor stakes race last time out Nov. 19 at Laurel Park. Missing from the Malibu is undefeated Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Drefong, who recently developed a fever.
“He got a little temp last week so I had to treat him,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He had worked very well for the race but he’s just going back to the track now.”
Looking to cash in on the turf in the competitive field of the La Brea is multiple graded stakes winner Lightstream, who is 4-1-1 in six starts and won the Raven Run (G2) last time out as the favorite at Keeneland Oct. 22. Julien Leparoux will ride the fine filly sitting well off the pace before she makes her move down the lane. Finley’sluckycharm will break just to her outside in post 3 looking to extend her record to six wins in seven starts. Her lone loss was in graded company Feb. 20 in the Twinspires Rachel Alexandra at the Fairgrounds where she faded badly after leading at the three-quarter ¾ pole going 1 1/16 miles.
Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Constellation ships from the East and should have a say down the lane after stalking the leaders. She won a minor stakes at Turf Paradise Nov. 12, and in Sept., 2015 she finished third in the Spinaway Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Enola Gray should also contend and have a shot with 4 wins and 2 seconds in six starts of mostly minor stakes, including 3-for-3 at Santa Anita. Trainer Phil D’Amato has here working very well following a 2nd place finish as the heavy favorite in the Betty Grable Nov. 13 at Del Mar.
Some notables in the $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2), for three-year-olds on the turf, is Isoderm, who tries to regain his form when 2nd and 3rd in graded company in September. Conquest Enforcer shoots for his first graded stakes win but has won three of six starts at Woodbine, and Twilight Derby winner Frank Conversation scored here Nov. 4 at 36-1.
Opening Day Dec. 26 at Santa Anita will have a $1,000,000 guarantee pick 4 for the stakes races starting with the San Simeon in Race 6.