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Runhappy with Gary Stevens aboard after winning the Malibu Stakes
The long Santa Anita winter-spring meet traditionally begins on December 26th, with the feature race the $300,000 Malibu Stakes (G1) for three-year-old sprinters going 7 furlongs. The race kicks off the Strub Series for newly-turning 4-year-olds, continuing with the San Fernando and the Strub Stakes during the meet. Conditions were excellent in Arcadia, California, with the 44,873 fans enjoying mostly sunny skies and temperatures near 60. As expected Runhappy was sent off as the 1-2 favorite in the field of seven, winner of 5 straight inclding the King's Bishop (G1), Phoenix (G3), and the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1). In to challenge him included 9-2 second choidce Marking, undefeated in 2 starts and making his stakes debut, and 7-1 third choice Lord Nelson, unraced since 4th in the Pat Day Mile (G3).
Runhappy leads down the stretch
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 Runhappy Stevens 3.00 2.60 2.10 2 Marking Lezcano 4.00 3.00 7 Lord Nelson Bejarano 3.20 Winning Time: 1:21.76 $2 Exacta 7-2 4.90 $1 Trifecta 4-2-7 16.30 $1 Superfecta 4-2-7-5 50.20
Left: Runhappy in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Laura Wohlers said, "It didn't surprise me the way he ran today. He's been training well even though he's been doing some crazy stuff in the mornings, it's just because he just wants to stand around and do what he wants to do. We let him get away with that at the training center. Maybe we have to be a little stricter with him, but right now, he really enjoys taking his time looking around. This is a very new environment for him."
Right: Runhappy in the post parade. Winning jockey Gary Stevens said, "It was harder to pull him up today, than to ride him during the race. There was some oil on the reins and they were slipping. My hand slipped off of his mane coming away from the gate and I cut my finger pretty good. He usually breaks a step slow but he broke like a Quarter Horse today. He was a complete professional."
Left: Second place finisher Marking in the paddock. The 9-2 second choice pressed the pace under Jose Lezcano but was unable to gain late, finishing second beaten 3 1/2 lengths. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee improved his record to 2 wins and 1 second in 3 starts, earning $125,200 for owner-breeder Godolphin Racing.
Right: Third place finisher Lord Nelson returns after the race. Jockey Rafael Bejarano said, "The horse ran good, no excuses. I was right behind those two horses and was in the perfect position. But those two horses, they never quit. I was in a perfect position, right behind with the speed, but those two horses, they never stopped."
The distaff counterpart to the Malibu is the $300,000 La Brea Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies also sprinting 7 furlongs. Test (G1) and Prioress (G2) Stakes winner Cavorting was sent off as the 7-5 favorite, off her 4th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1). In to challenge her included 3-1 second choice Ben's Duchess, winner of the L.A. Woman Stakes (G3), and 7-2 third choice Hot City Girl, winner of the Safely Kept last out at Laurel.
Jockey Jose Ortiz sent Hot City Girl to the lead down the backstretch and she set fractions of 22.71, 45.35, and 1:10.18 while pressed by 9-1 Finest City and Ben's Duchess. In midstretch Hot City Girl opened up a 2 length lead and looked homefree, but 11-1 Birdatthewire, last for the first 5/8 mile, came out 4 wide into the lane and closed steadily to get up by 1/2 a length in 1:23.31. It was another 1 1/4 length back to late-running favorite Cavorting third.
Results Chart from DRF.
Left: Birdatthewire in the winner's circle. Winning owner Tom Camp said, "I think it was the perfect combination. Mike Smith is known for liking to take his horses outside, and we got out there with some room to run. When we came into the stretch, I thought we had a decent chance to catch Hot City Girl."
Right: Birdatthewire returns after the race. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "Dale (Romans, trainer) told me that she likes to run out when she's making a run 'so just let her.' So, as long as she kept catching them, I just kept letting her run to the outside. We were way past the middle of the racetrack but she just kept running. If I try to hold her, I think it just slows her down. This is the only time I've been on her but I'm certain she's getting better. I certainly hope I get to ride her at some point again. She's not based here, but I'd like the opportunity."
Left: Second place finisher Hot City Girl in the paddock before the race. The 7-2 third choice set the pace under Jose Ortiz but was caught late to finish second beaten 1/2 a length. The Linda Rice trainee improved her record to 5 wins, 3 seconds, and 0 thirds in 12 starts, earning $515,150 for owner Lady Sheila Stable.
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Cavorting in the post parade. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "I got a perfect trip. Can't complain. I broke good. I got a good position and heading for home, she was doing great. She ran a good race today. She just got third. She just got beat. She did everything right. For me, she did everything perfect. She just got beat today."
The $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) featured a field of 11 three-year-olds going 1 mile on the turf. Del Mar Derby (G1) and Twilight Derby (G1) winner Om was sent off as the 6-5 favorite off his close third in the Hollywood Derby (G1), over 9-2 second choice Mister Brightside, 9th in the Hollywood Derby after second in the Twilight Derby, and 7-1 third choice Soul Driver, 6th in the Hollywood Derby.
Jockey Alonso Quinonez sent 18-1 Acceptance to the lead first time past the stands and he set fractions of 23.03, 47.15, and 1:11.77 over the firm course while pressed by Om and stalked by Mister Brightside. Entering the lane, Om angled out for room and easily gained the lead at the 3/16 pole through 7/8 in 1:23.85. 24-1 Perfectly Majestic put in a late rally from 7th but Om easily cruised to a 1 3/4 length win in 1:35.57. It was another 4 3/4 lengths back to 8-1 Vigilante third.
Results Chart from DRF.
Left: Om in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Dan Hendricks said, "The race set up perfectly for him. He's got the natural speed to be placed wherever Gary wants. We were either going to the front or going to sit second today, and it just worked out perfect. Gary rode him perfectly, the horse ran perfectly and I did an OK job training him, so I'm happy with how it all turned out. He could run next in the Kilroe or (the Arcadia). He's a very lightly raced horse. He's three years old, his joints are perfect, he's sound, he's happy and full of energy."
Right: Om in the post parade. Winning jockey Gary Stevens said, "He felt super today, he's been training great. We got beat by a good horse in his last out in the Hollywood Derby and it just wasn't his day down there. Today, everything went perfect. We were rolling into the turn, I got to slow it down and he got a nice breather. He hit the after-burners at the eighth pole. There was a horse coming to him and he still had something left and he gave it to me. The turf course is superb here. Santa Anita has done a great job with it."
Left: Second place finisher Perfectly Majestic in the walking ring before the race. Jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "That horse just ran an eye-catching race. He sat well, good situation at the quarter-pole; I was able to keep the paint and slide through to the leader. When I got out, he just exploded. I said, 'I'm an easy winner.' And Om, oh my God, he just took off. I couldn't catch him, but it wasn't for lack of effort from the little guy I rode. He just ran his eyeballs out."
Right: Third place finisher Vigilante in the walking ring. The 8-1 fourth choice was last 8 lengths back early under Joe Talamo then passed tiring horses to get third beaten 6 1/2 lengths. The Phil D'Amato trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third in 5 starts, earning $139,600 for owners Gary and Mary West.
Kicking off the stakes schedule for the meeting was the $100,000 Daytona Stakes (G3) for older horses sprinting about 6 1/2 furlongs on the downhill turf course. Eddie D (G3) winner and Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) 4th No Silent was the lukewarm 4-1 favorite in the field of 12 over 4.1-1 second choice Richard's Boy, winner of the Jess Jackson Owners' Handicap, and 9-2 third choice Alert Bay, winner of the City of Hope Mile (G2) but 7th in the Seabiscuit Handicap (G3). Jockey Edwin Maldonado sent 42-1 Rocket Heat to a clear lead through fractions of 21.99 and 44.18. In mid-stretch Rocket Heat continued to lead by 2 through 3/4 in 1:07.74. 21-1 Toowindytohaulrox, 11th early, and 52-1 longest shot Coastline, 8th early, rallied on the far outside as Toowindytohaulrox outfinished Coastline to win by a neck in 1:14.26. It was another neck back to pacesetter Rocket Heat third. Favorite No Silent finished 7th but just 2 1/2 lengths back of the winner.
Winning trainer Phil D'Amato said, "I wanted them to stay outside, 'Toowindy' especially. He likes to be in the clear. Anytime he's got to split horses, he doesn't like it as much. He likes to be running freely and Tiago (Pereira) bided his time back there, got him widest of all and came with a big run. The Breeders' Cup is a possibility. I know he likes this trip, and he's just getting his confidence going. He's getting better and better with every race."
Results Chart from DRF.
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