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2022 Malibu, La Brea, and San Antonio Stakes

horse racing
Taiba with Mike Smith aboard returns after winning the Malibu Stakes

American Oaks, Santa Anita Mathis Mile, and San Gabriel Stakes

Date: 12/26/2022

The day after Christmas marks opening day for the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. Conditions were excellent with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 80's for the 41,446 fans in attendance at the historic Arcadia oval, the biggest crowd since December 26, 2016. A new record opening day all-sources handle of $26,315,016 was bet on the 11-race card. Santa Anita Senior Vice-President and General Manater Nate Newby said, "It was a fantastic day," said Santa Anita Senior Vice President and General Manager Nate Newby.  "Today, Santa Anita Park again proved why we are indeed The Great Race Place.  We'd like to thank our fans and horseplayers around the country and those that were with us here on-track for their continued support of our program. We'd also like to thank our horsemen, horse owners from around the world, our Hall of Fame jockey colony and our racing department for putting together one of the best cards run anywhere this year.  Combining it with picture-perfect weather, it was just a great start to our Classic Meet."

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Taiba leads down the stretch
The traditional opening day feature is the $300,000 Runhappy 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. Pennsylvania Derby (G1) winner Taiba was sent off as the 2-5 favorite in the field of 9 off his third place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic. In to challenge him included 7-1 second choice Forbidden Kingdom, fifth in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) before finishing a close third in an allowance at Del Mar, and 10-1 third choice Nakatomi, an allowance winner at Keeneland after finishing fourth in the Gallant Bob (G2) at Parx.

Jockey Juan Hernandez sent Forbidden Kingdom to the front exiting the chute through fractions of 22.18 and 44.38 while pressed by Taiba and stalked by 16-1 Straight No Chaser. Turning for home, Taiba gained the lead through 3/4 in 1:08.91. Kept to task by Mike Smith, Taiba drew off late to win by 4 1/4 lengths over Forbidden Kingdom in 1:21.75. It was another 3/4 length back to late-running 29-1 Hoist the Gold third.

Also on the card: American Oaks (G1), San Gabriel Stakes (G2), and Mathis Mile (G2)


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Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
 6   Taiba              Smith         2.80    2.20  2.10
 1   Forbidden Kingdom  Hernandez             4.40  3.60
 5   Hoist the Gold     Bravo                       5.60

Winning Time:  1:21.75

$1 Exacta 6-1                 8.40
$1 Trifecta 6-1-5            58.00
$1 Superfecta 6-1-5-4       220.90
Results Chart from DRF.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Taiba in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "It just shows you the clientele that we have. It is unbelievable, they let us buy these horses and I have a great team and staff. Everyone works hard, and when you are given these horses, you're lucky if you know what to do with them and sometimes you don't. Just watching this little horse, he is tough to train. Working in the mornings what he is going to give you depends on who he is working with. Today Mike kept him up there and just said I'm going to empty him out, but there's no bottom to this horse."

Right: Taiba in the paddock before the race. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "That horse is like a bike, and you have to pedal. Going long you don't have to do it as much, but I knew that going short it would be tough. Last time he didn't break very well in the Breeders' Cup; he stumbled. I thought, 'If I break through it, I can get in front of the two next to me outside and at least gain third. Right?' Well, I didn't see the outside horse, and I decided not to take a chance and see what he was going to do. Normally, I have to get aggressive with him at that point like I did in Philadelphia, but today that horse actually helped me."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Forbidden Kingdom in the paddock. Trainer Richard Mandella said, "I think he got rattled when he left the gate tardy today. It unsettled him. He came on really good at the end. The winner is a very good horse."

Right: Third place finisher Hoist the Gold returns after the race. The Dallas Stewart trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 4 seconds, and 3 thirds in 16 starts, earning $307,352 for owner-breeder Dream Team One Racing Stable.


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The distaff counterpart to the Malibu is the $300,000 La Brea Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies also sprinting 7 furlongs. Torrey Pines (G3) and Zenyatta Stakes (G2) winner Midnight Memories was sent off as the 2-1 favorite in the field of 7. In to challenge her included 5-2 second choice Fun to Dream, winner of the Betty Grable Stakes, and 7-2 third choice Under the Stars, second in the Chillingworth (G3).

5-1 Ganadora and 10-1 Ain't Easy dueled out of the chute through fractions of 22.05 and 44.80 while stalked by Fun to Dream. Turning for home the front two tired allowing Fun to Dream to inherit the lead through 3/4 in 1:09.27. Kept to task by Juan Hernandez, Fun to Dream held off late-running 7-1 Awake at Midnyte to win by 3/4 length in 1:21.99. It was another 3 1/4 lengths back to 31-1 longest shot Kirstenbosch third, and 1/2 a length more to favorite Midnight Memories fourth.

Results Chart from DRF.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Fun to Dream in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Juan Hernandez said, "This horse is getting really, really good. She's shown up in her last couple of starts. Today, she was traveling very smoothly on the back side, and she broke sharp. Then after that, I felt like I had a ton of control. Turning for home I asked her to switch leads and pick it up, and she did the rest."

Right: Fun to Dream in the paddock. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "All the fillies, they were doing so well, and I was hoping that one of them would get there and she just got the perfect trip, outside. Juan just sat there, and you could tell he was loving it turning for home. I'm sitting next to my wife Jill (who is a co-owner), and she can't believe what she's seeing. You breed these horses, hoping for this moment. It looks like she's just getting better and better. She doesn't know she's a Cal-bred."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Awake at Midnyte returns after the race. The Doug O'Neill trainee improved her record to 2 wins, 4 seconds, and 1 third in 10 starts, earning $329,675 for owner Reddam Racing.

Right: Third place finisher Kirstenbosch in the paddock. The John Sadler trainee improved her record to 2 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third in 9 starts, earning $214,480 for owner-breeder Keith Abrahams.

horse racing
Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Midnight Memories in the post parade. The Bob Baffert trainee has a record of 4 wins, 0 seconds, and 1 third in 6 starts, earning $304,680 for owner-breeders Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman.


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The $200,000 San Antonio Stakes (G2) featured a field of 6 older horses going 1 1/16 miles on the main track in an early prep for the Santa Anita Handicap. Dubai World Cup (G1) winner and Pacific Classic (G1) runner-up Country Grammer was sent off as the 3-5 favorite over 9-2 second choice Hopkins, winner of 2 straight in allowance company, and 5-1 third choice Stilleto Boy, sixth in the Pacific Classic.

Jockey Juan Hernandez sent Hopkins to the lead first time by through fractions of 22.76 and 46.16 while pressed by Stilleto Boy and stalked by Country Grammer. On the far turn Hopkins tired allowing Stilleto Boy to take over through 3/4 in 1:10.35. Into the stretch, jockey Frankie Dettori moved Country Grammer out 3 wide for room and quickly opened up a 3 1/2 length lead through 1 mile in 1:36.57. Kept to task by Dettori, Country Grammer drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Stilleto Boy in 1:43.45. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to late-running 9-1 Heywoods Beach third.

Results Chart from DRF.

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Frankie Dettori does his flying dismount from Country Grammer in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "This horse is the neatest, coolest horse. He has really brought us up when we were really down. He has come through, he's a clutch horse. That little freshening really helped him and he's been doing so great. He likes a deep track. That was an amazing comeback run. I'm happy for Frankie Dettori, I mean who better? This is his last year and to have him on there and win a race like this. I can't believe the crowd today it's crazy, it's like a Breeders' Cup day."

Right: Country Grammer in the post parade. Winning jockey Frankie Dettori, who will retire after the 2023 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita said, "I woke up and was a bit emotional, a bit sad, but also happy. This is the start of my finale, today. This is it. I tried to enjoy it. The pressure is on. I'm here for 10 weeks and to ride straight away on the first day. I felt it a bit and once he had the race well at the furlong marker I was able to enjoy the crowd. They were all screaming. Bob was very confident. Drawing six is good for him because at least I can move whenever I want. He's a tough horse and you wouldn't do that with another horse, sending him at the 3/8ths. But he's got the lungs to take it in. He won like a good horse again."

horse racinghorse racingLeft: Second place finisher Stilleto Boy in the paddock before the race. Jockey Mike Smith said, "I thought he was dynamite. That race should do him some good."

Right: Third place finisher Heywoods Beach in the paddock. The John Sadler trainee improved his record to 5 wins, 3 seconds, and 4 thirds in 22 starts, earning $439,376 for owner Hronis Racing.

horse racing
Country star Dwight Yoakam presented the trophies in the winner's circle. He said, "I'm excited to be here. Our family home is here in Southern California and what do you do the day after Christmas? You go to Opening Day at Santa Anita. It's the fun thing to do. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son and he loves the horses. We keep three back home including my wife's jumper and a trail horse. We tried to breed a Mr. Prospector, but he bowed a tendon. I had racehorses in the 90's. I had a horse at Hollywood Park, and he won a mile turf race at 83-1. That was quite a thrill."

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