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Aaron previews the 2023 Malibu Stakes (G1) from Santa Anita Park, then gives his top picks from this Opening Day event.
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A stakes winner on both turf and dirt, versatile Speed Boat Beach heads Santa Anita’s traditional opening day main event, the Grade I, $300,000 Malibu Stakes, for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.
A colt by 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern, Speed Boat Beach heads a powerful three-horse contingent for Baffert, who took last year’s Malibu with Taiba and now seeks to join fellow Hall of Famer Richard Mandella by winning his sixth career Malibu.
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Second, beaten a head two starts back by top sprinter Dr. Schivel in the Grade II Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Sept. 30, Speed Boat Beach made all the early running in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint here on Nov. 4, but tired to finish fourth, beaten three lengths.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Speed Boat Beach will be ridden by Flavien Prat, who last rode him three starts back, winning the Grade III Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at one mile over the Del Mar turf on Dec. 4, 2022.
Fresh off a facile 2 ¼ length allowance score at 4-5 going 6 ½ furlongs on Nov. 17 at Del Mar, Baffert’s Fort Bragg, who was third, beaten 1 ¼ lengths for second by Speed Boat Beach in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Sept. 30, will be ridden for the first time by America’s leading money earning rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. With the recent allowance win and Ortiz up, Fort Bragg will get plenty of pari-mutuel attention as he bids for his first Grade I win in what will be his 12th career start.
Owned by SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC, et al, Fort Bragg has three wins and earnings of $414,300.
A New York-bred purchased as a yearling for $3,550,000, Baffert’s Hejazi rounds out his three-card hand and rate a huge chance on Tuesday as well with top jock Juan Hernandez back aboard. Idle since second as the 7-5 favorite in a seven furlong ungraded stakes at Keeneland April 7, Hejazi was off as the 8-5 favorite in a first condition allowance at six panels here on Nov. 3 and he blew the competition away, winning by 5 ½ lengths.
Owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Inc., Hejazi, who is 7-2-3-1, seeks his first stakes win in what will be his second Grade I assignment.
Always dangerous under any circumstances, eastern-based trainer Brad Cox will send out Giant Mischief, who will be ridden for the first time by Kazushi Kamura, who led all riders at Woodbine’s recently concluded meet with 161 winners.
Owned by Spendthrift Farm, LLC and Steve Landers Racing, LLC, Big Easy Racing, LLC, et al, Giant Mischief, by Into Mischief, has three wins from six starts and will seeking his first stakes win in the Malibu.
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