Swaps Stakes (gr. II) winner Arson Squad completed his major work for Tuesday's opening day Malibu Stakes (gr. I) Friday morning with a half-mile blow out in a scintillating :45 1/5, the best of 32 works at the distance and nearly two seconds faster than the next best time.
It was the fifth bullet of the last seven works by Arson Squad, who has not raced since winning an allowance race at Santa Anita on Oct. 14. Exercise rider Jack Stack was aboard.
"It was fabulous," trainer Bruce Headley said. "I told Jack to let him run but do not push him."
Arson Squad, a 3-year-old Pennsylvania-bred gelding by Brahms owned by the Jay Em Ess Stable of Mace and Samantha Siegel, has four wins and three thirds from eight starts.
"He's lived up to expectations," Headley said. "He's as good as any horse I've ever had."
Alex Solis, coming off a slower than usual Hollywood Park meeting (9 for 93), will ride Arson Squad rather than Brother Derek in the first leg of the Strub Series (also comprised of the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes on Jan. 13 and the Strub Stakes on Feb. 3).
Solis had ridden Brother Derek for trainer Dan Hendricks in each of the colt's 13 races, and Arson Squad in seven of his eight races, so he came to a fork in the road with both horses are scheduled to run in the Grade I race at seven furlongs.
"I left up it to super agent there," said Solis, pointing to Scott McClellan. "That's his job. Seriously, it was a tough decision. They are two really good horses. You don't want to lose any of them, but I think it was more or less that we gave Bruce a call. We thought Brother Derek would run on the grass (in the Sir Beaufort) and that didn't happen."
Probable for the 55th running of the Malibu, which will be televised live on HRTV: Arson Squad, Alex Solis; Brother Derek, Garrett Gomez; Da Stoops, Martin Garcia; Latent Heat, Edgar Prado; Midnight Lute, Victor Espinoza; Northern Soldier, Aaron Gryder; Objective, Tyler Baze; Sailors Sunset, Jon Court; and Spring at Last, Corey Nakatani.