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Saturday’s opening day of the Santa Anita Park meet includes the season’s last major races for 3-year-olds, highlighted by the $300,000 Runhappy Malibu Stakes (G1).
The Malibu will be one of six stakes events on the card, which includes other great races such as the San Antonio Stakes (G2), the Mathis Brother Mile Stakes (G2), the La Brea Stakes (G1), and the American Oaks (G1). The Malibu will be race 10 on this great day of racing.
The Malibu only drew a field of six, but there’s more than enough star power entered. Trainer Bob Baffert holds his normally strong hand in this race with two colts entered, the undefeated Charlatan and the multiple graded stakes winner Thousand Words.
Charlatan has not been seen since crossing the wire first in Division 1 of the Arkansas Derby (G1) back in May; however, he was later disqualified and placed last because of a failed drug test. Thousand Words was last seen finishing eighth in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Charlatan will break from post 4 with Mike Smith aboard and Thousand Words gets the services of John Velazquez while breaking from post 2.
The scary invader to watch is Nashville, who won the Perryville Stakes in track record time last time out on the Keeneland Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt earned the fastest TimeForm speed figure of any runner that day at Keeneland, which turned a lot of heads. He’ll try graded company for the first time when breaking from post 3 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in town for the ride.
Another horse on the comeback trail is Independence Hall, who returned from a lengthy layoff to win an allowance at Del Mar last time out. The Constitution colt kicked off 2020 with a win in the Jerome Stakes on January 1 but lost his next 2 starts, both routes. He’s never lost when sprinting and will break from post 6 for this event with Joel Rosario aboard.
The full field from the rail out: Collusion Illusion, Thousand Words, Nashville, Charlatan, Express Train, and Independence Hall.
#3 Nashville – There’s no denying how powerful he looked in his last 2 starts, both of which came at Keeneland and looked extremely easy. He faces a much stiffer test here, and fellow heavyweights Charlatan and Independence Hall pose major challenges, but he could simply be faster than everyone else in the race. He has a great chance to earn a career-defining victory and must be used on everything.
#4 Charlatan – At one time this season, he was a favorite to win the Kentucky Derby (G1). However, a lot has happened since then, including an Arkansas Derby (G1) victory that was later taken away because of a positive drug test. He soon suffered an injury that forced him out of action – until now. He should return strong in this spot, though we’d feel a bit more confident if he had a race under his belt. This is tough ask off the bench.
#6 Independence Hall – He certainly seems like a sneaky entry who isn’t getting the headlines despite never losing a one-turn event. He came back sharp off of a layoff last time out, easily defeating allowance foes at Del Mar, and he should stalk a hot pace before pouncing on the front-runners as they enter the stretch. He should offer value here.
#2 Thousand Words – The “other Bob Baffert” is a surprising entry who seems most effective around two turns, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles cutting back in distance. A projected hot pace means he could hit the board with a late run.
#1 Collusion Illusion – If someone is going to pull an upset in this spot, it’ll likely be Collusion Illusion, who might possess the perfect running style for this event. The pace should be extremely fast enough to make his late-running style dangerous down the stretch. He’s going to need the pace to fall apart for sure, but if it does, he can make some noise at a price.
#5 Express Train – He moves back to the dirt, his best surface but still has a lot of proving to do before he can be trusted in a spot like this. He has to show improvement to make any impact against this tough field.
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