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McKinzie with Mike Smith 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 41,373 fans in attendance enjoying sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60's. As expected Pennsylvania Derby (G1) winner McKinzie was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the full field of 14 off his 12th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1). In to challenge him included 11-2 second choice Copper Bullet, an allowance winner at Churchill off a 15 month layoff, and 8-1 third choice Ax Man, gelded since finishing 3rd in both the Matt Winn (G3) and the Los Alamitos Derby (G3).
McKinzie leads down the stretch
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 13 McKinzie Smith 4.40 3.60 3.40 5 Identity Politics Ortiz Jr. 10.00 8.60 4 Still Having Fun Desormeaux 10.40 Winning Time: 1:22.48 $1 Exacta 13-5 36.70 $1 Trifecta 13-5-4 651.70 $1 Superfecta 13-5-4-6 3,177.10
Left: McKinzie in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "Coming in to this race they were all training really well but the horse is just an outstanding individual. You could just tell he was getting in gear. His namesake (Brad McKinzie, a longtime executive at Los Alamitos) is looking down on him today so I was pretty excited about that and the crowd, they were all in on him. Frank (Mirahmadi, announcer) made the call turning for home you could hear the crowd really got in to it so it's pretty exciting to see that. The good ones show up and he showed up. Down the backside he was way back there and I thought, 'Well, I hope they're going really, really fast.' When he came in to the picture that was a good sign because it's going to be a longer day than I really thought."
Right: McKinzie heads back to the barn.
Left: McKinzie in the post parade.
Right: McKinzie gets unsaddled after the race. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "This horse really has something in store. You're really better off running him like this because you don't take too much out of yourself. Bob brought him back here, gave him a little break and his energy came back up, his weight came back up and he was ready to run today. He was loaded from the word 'go'. I think the only anxious moment was leaving the gate when he kind of stumbled but after that he got up and he was loaded from that point on. I've said all along that we haven't seen the best of him yet. When he learns to put a few of these in a row together, we're going to see something special."
Left: Second place finisher Identity Politics returns after the race. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "We had a good trip, but I had to check a little bit coming out of the gate, so we got pinched back a little. We were second best today, but my horse is improving with every race."
Right: Third place finisher Still Having Fun in the post parade. The Timothy Keefe trainee improved his record to 4 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds in 13 starts, earning $516,653 for owners Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, and Terp Racing LLC.
The distaff counterpart to the Malibu is the $300,000 La Brea Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies also sprinting 7 furlongs. Dream Tree was sent off as the 7-10 favorite in the field of 8, undefeated in 5 career starts including the Las Virgenes (G2) and Prioress (G2). In to challenge her included 7-2 second choice Happy Like a Fool, an allowance winner after finishing 6th in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) and 5-1 third choice Spiced Perfection, wnnner of the Betty Grable Stakes.
Jockey Drayden Van Dyke sent Dream Tree to lead exiting the chute through an opening quarter of 22.68 beefore Happy Like a Fool took over through a half in 45.68, with 33-1 Hot Autumn pressing the pace in second. Entering the stretch, Dream Tree tired badly and dropped back to last, as Spiced Perfecton, 5th early under Flavien Prat, swept 4 wide to lead through 3/4 in 1:10.47. Kept to task by Prat, Spiced Perfection drew clear late to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Hot Autumn in 1:23.54. It was a head back to late-running 10-1 Emboldened third, while Dream Tree finished last beaten 25 1/2 lengths.
Results Chart from DRF.
Left: Spiced Perfection in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Brian Koriner said, "She really did it on her own. Flavien even had to slow her down on the backside because she was running up there. I was just hoping she wasn't too fresh and get tired late. It was a great move up, to have little pedigree and win a Grade I, I don't know what that does for her but we're happy. She's got over half a million dollars now so that always helps. This was her last shot against three-year-old fillies, we almost ran at Golden Gate for $75,000 a month ago so it was worth a shot here. In the meantime, we got an offer for her for half a million dollars and they were going to let me keep her. They made the offer before they ever looked at her and then took back the offer. It was a done deal and they backed out. So it was good to see her win after somebody said 'No we don't want her'."
Right: Spiced Perfection heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "She ran big. She broke off nice and then I was outside in the clear. She was comfortable the entire way. Around the turn I was going pretty well so I thought I had a shot. As soon as I asked her, she responded well and ran big. Brian didn't say much beforehand. She's been training well and I thought her last race was really nice so we were confident today. She's really push-button. I really thought she'd run well today." Co-owner Mike Tierney added, "I never dreamed of this! To win a Grade One, with a Cal-bred! This is pretty impressive."
Left: Second place finisher Hot Autumn in the paddock before the race. Jockey Tyler Baze said, "She's a nice filly. She tried hard. She gave it her all. I look for bigger and better things with her throughout the year and next year."
Right: Third place finisher Emboldened returns after the race. The Bob Baffert trainee improved her record to 2 wins and 2 thirds in 4 starts, earning $124,020 for owner-breeder Godolphin LLC.
Last place finisher and beaten favorite Dream Tree in the paddock before the race. Jockey Drayden Van Dyke said, "I don't know what happened. She just came up empty."
The $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) featured a field of 10 three-year-olds going 1 mile on the turf. Twilight Derby (G2) winner River Boyne was sent off as the 2-5 favorite off his 2nd place finish in the Hollywood Derby (G1). In to challenge him included 13-2 second choice Gidu, 7th in the Showing Up after finishing 5th in the Belmont Turf Sprint, and 10-2 third choice Desert Stone, 3rd in the Twilight Derby then 8th in the Hollywood Derby.
Jockey Edwin Maldonado sent 58-1 Snazzy Dresser to the front first time by and he set fractions of 22.68, 46.14, and 1:10.21 while pressed by Gidu and stalked by 75-1 Hardboot. Entering the stretch, Snazzy Dresser continued to lead through 7f in 1:22.62 but tired badly soon after. Favorite River Boyne, 7th early under Flavien Prat, came out 4 wide into the stretch and was all out to hold off fellow closer Desert Stone by a head in 1:34.52 over the firm course. It was another 1/2 length back to 14-1 Combatant third.
Results Chart from DRF.
Left: River Boyne in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Jeff Mullins said, "He's solid. You know when you lead him over here he's going to give it you. He might not get it every time but he's going to give it you. I thought Flavien might have had him (River Boyne) a little too far back but he (Prat) knows more of what he's got under him than I do." Co-owner Mark Cohen added, "We went for so many years of losing races with cheaper horses that we bred, it's just incredible to have all of these top turf horses. My Dad doesn't take any of this for granted, but I guess I am. This horse is so consistent, he just wants to win."
Right: River Boyne gets a pat after winning. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "I had a great trip, he broke well and then it was more about getting him to relax. With the mile sometimes, it's a bit tough to get him to relax. Today we had some pace, he relaxed well, made a nice move when I asked him to go and he gave everything he had to hang in there."
Left: Second place finisher Desert Stone in the post parade. Jockey Geovanni Franco said, "My horse always runs well for me. Once he got ahead of the horses down the lane he took off. He put on a run. He gave me all he had."
Right: Third place finisher Combatant in the walking ring before the race. Jockey Jose Ortiz said, "He ran very good. We saved ground on both turns which really helped us a lot in the end. And when I asked him to go he gave me a great kick turning for home. We were very happy the way he ran. He ran a very good race."
The $300,000 San Antonio Stakes (G2) featured a field of 9 older horses going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. 2017 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Battle of Midway was sent off as the 3-2 favorite off a win in the Native Diver (G3). In to challenge him included 9-5 second choice Dabster, 2nd in the Marathon (G2) and the Native Diver (G3), and 13-2 third choice Gift Box, an allowance winner last out.
Jokey Edwin Maldonado sent 98-1 longest shot Pitino to the lead first time by and he set fractions of 23.28 and 46.72 while pressed by Battle of Midway and stalked by Dabster. On the far turn, Pitino tired as Battle of Midway inherited the lead through 3/4 in 1:11.06. Gift Box, 4th early under Joel Rosario, came out 3 wide into the stretch to take over the lead at the 3/16 pole, and held off Battle of Midway to win by 1/2 a length in 1:43.88. It was another 3/4 length back to Dabster third.
Results Chart from DRF.
Left: Gift Box in the winner's circle. Winning trainer John Sadler said, "Hopefully this horse will be in the handicap division this year and we're not opposed to going to Dubai with him. He's close to my heart. He's from the first crop of Twirling Candy so I've been watching him for a couple of years. He's trained really well for this race and he's had a bunch of bullets. He ran like he trained. He was fourth to Arrogate in the (2016) Travers, and he was second in (the Curlin Stakes) at Saratoga, so there are a lot of nice running lines in there. He's got that Unbridled's Song gray coming through from the dam's side." Owner Kosta Hronis added, "John was pointing for this all along so this was always the target. John knew what he had and he was really happy when he got him. He's been working well and he loves it here. Sadler is doing his magic again. He won't run in the Pegasus. He'll stay here and run in the Santa Anita stakes races. We'll let (stablemate) Accelerate do his thing at the Pegasus all by himself."
Right: Gift Box in the post parade. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "Every time when the horses were coming up from behind him, he was pushing and wanted to keep going. He got some good headway and when he was heading for home, he kind of took the lead, then fell back a little bit and regained it. He just needed someone to push him a little bit. I thought it was a perfect trip for a little bit and then right on the backside coming by the half mile, I was in between horses for a little bit and I was looking to get out of there because he's kind of a free running horse. And I did coming for the turn, I got where I wanted to be on the outside and then he just did the job from there."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Battle of Midway in the post parade. Jockey Flavien Prat said, "I had a good trip. I've got no excuse. There wasn't anything out of the ordinary."
Right: Third place finisher Dabster in the walking ring before the race with assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes. The Bob Baffert trainee improved his record to 5 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds in 12 starts, earning $347,305 for owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum.
Kicking off the stakes schedule for the meeting was the $75,000 Lady of Shamrock Stakes for three-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the turf. Autumn Miss Stakes (G3) runner-up Ms Bad Behavior was sent off as the even-money favorite in the field of 8 over 9-5 Amandine, an allowance winner at Del Mar last out, and 7-1 Streak of Luck, third in the Autumn Miss. Jockey Joel Rosario sent Ms Bad Behavior to the lead first time by and she set fractions of 23.40, 47.67, and 1:11.62 while pressed by 50-1 Stradella Road and stalked by 19-1 Animosity. Entering the lane Ms Bad Behavior continued to lead through 7f in 1:23.60, but Amandine, 4th early under Drayden Van Dyke, rallied on the outside, taking over at the 1/16 pole and drawing off late to win by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:35.10. It was another 3/4 length back to Stradella Road third.
Winning jockey Drayden Van Dyke said, "I had a ton of horse. My only concern was finding the right horse to follow. I know Ms Bad Behavior might be better than (Stradella Road, who was pressing on the outside), so I dropped in behind (Ms Bad Behavior) and got out. I had so much horse I could have made a spot if I needed to, but the way I saw it playing out, I was confident I was going to get through." Trainer Jeff Mullins added, "(Drayden)'s raved about her ever since he rode her the first time. And then working her a few times here, he said, 'Man, I don't know if I've ever been on a filly like this before.'" Amandine is also entered in the American Oaks (G1) on Saturday. Mullins said of running back on 3 days rest, "We'll know more in the morning. It's possible."
Results Chart from DRF.
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