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Speed Boat Beach won the 2023 Malibu Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park over fellow Bob Baffert trainee Hejazi for the barn exacta.
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In a stretch battle befitting it’s status as Santa Anita’s Classic Meet opening day headliner, Tuesday’s Grade I, $300,000 Malibu Stakes showcased Speed Boat Beach and stablemate Hejazi as they “threw down” from the quarter pole home.
With favored Speed Boat Beach prevailing by 1 ½ lengths while getting seven furlongs in 1:21.70, Bob Baffert collected the exacta as well as his record-tying sixth Malibu win, putting him atop the prestigious Malibu heap with fellow Hall of Famer Richard Mandella.
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Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Hejazi broke sharply to take the lead from his number six post position, but he was headed by Speed Boat Beach and Flavien Prat to his inside a half mile out. Racing as a team into and around the far turn, it appeared Hejazi put a head in front at the quarter pole, but when they straightened for home, Speed Boat Beach was all business, opening up a length and from there, he was able to repel a resolute challenge from Hejazi to register his first Grade I win.
Prat, who hadn’t ridden Speed Boat Beach since Dec. 4, 2022, rang up his third win on the opening day card and his second win in the Malibu, following up on his Santa Anita opening day score a year ago aboard undefeated super horse Flightline.
A Florida-bred 3-year-old colt by 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern, out of the Pioneerof the Nile mare Sophia Mia, Speed Boat Beach, who making his third start of the year, came off a fourth place finish in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint here at Santa Anita on Nov. 4. He was off as the 8-5 favorite in a field seven sophomores and paid $5.20, $3.20 and $2.60.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Speed Boat Beach, a Grade III one mile turf winner, notched his third overall graded stakes win and his fourth win from seven starts. With the winner’s share of $180,000, Speed Boach Beach hiked his earnings to $498,000.
Off as the second choice at 2-1, Hejazi finished three lengths clear of Giant Mischief and paid $4.00 and $2.60.
Off at 10-1 with Kazushi Kimura, Giant Mischief, who broke from the rail, rallied for third money, finishing 2 ¼ lengths in front of Damon’s Mound while returning $4.00 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.21, 44.42 and 1:08.65.
FLAVIEN PRAT, SPEED BOAT BEACH, WINNER: “He was really sharp early. I got him to relax and we took a little breather. Around the turn, he really went well. He didn’t mind being on the inside. He was really in a good rhythm today.”
BOB BAFFERT, SPEED BOAT BEACH, WINNER: “His issue is that he has always been very aggressive. He’s aggressive in the mornings and aggressive in his races. We have been working on getting him relaxed, a lot of schooling. I’ve got a great team, my riders and my assistants they have been working him a lot. Prat worked him for me today and he actually worked really well with Prat. He got along with him really well, got him to come off the bit a little bit. I was worried about my other horses they were going to be in there with him. It is a good feeling, turning for home I knew I was going to win it. I wasn’t sure which one it was going to be, I would have liked to run one, two, three. Speed Boat Beach has always shown since his first out that he was something special, hopefully he can build from this.
“Hejazi, He is a serious horse. He was a little bit keen today. We weren’t able to train this last week. Juan was telling me he couldn’t get him to relax very well so he used himself up a little bit. I see big things for him down the road.”
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