A field of 13 3-year-olds will assemble on Wednesday for the seven-furlong, $200,000 Malibu Stakes on opening day of the Santa Anita meeting.
D. Wayne Lukas-trained Yonaguska drew the rail, while Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) runner-up Early Flyer will start from post position 11 under Chris McCarron.
While Yonaguska is a multiple graded stakes winner in sprints, it is barnmate Scorpion who is saddled with high weight of 121 pounds in the Malibu. Scorpion, best remembered for winning the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. I) in August, did win two allowance sprints this year and a five-furlong maiden race as a debuting juvenile. Following the Jim Dandy, Scorpion finished off the board in three straight races. He last raced in early October at Belmont Park, finishing a well beaten fifth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). Alex Solis will be aboard Scorpion for the Malibu.
Yonaguska, meanwhile, has won two of three races since returning from a layoff in early October. In his return race, Michael Tabor's colt finished third in Delaware Township's Forest Hills Handicap (gr. II), before winning the Sport Page (gr. III) and Fall Highweight (gr. II) handicaps in succession. In the Malibu, Yonaguska will be shedding 12 pounds from the impost he carried to victory in the six-furlong Fall Highweight.
"He's coming up to the race well," Lukas said. "He had a little time off in the summer, so he's a relatively fresh horse. The Malibu is a grade I and we like that. It's hard to pass up this opportunity."
The last time Early Flyer raced against a field comprised strictly of 3-year-olds, he defeated Squirtle Squirt by three-quarters of a length in the seven-furlong Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes (gr. III) at Hollywood Park. He then went on a nearly six-month layoff before returning to finish second in the De Francis Dash. The Ron McAnally trainee is a perfect two-for-two at the distance of seven furlongs.
Griffinite returned from a layoff earlier this month and won a seven-furlong allowance race on the track before being placed fourth by the Aqueduct stewards. The Richard Lundy-trained son of Unbridled's Song earned his only stakes win at the Malibu distance, that coming in the Lafayette Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland in April.
European-import Mizzen Mast will be trying the main track for the first time in the Malibu. The Bobby Frankel-trained son of Cozzene won at a mile last time out, but has yet to race at a sprint distance. A group III winner in France, Mizzen Mast has one victory in three American starts, that coming in a restricted stakes race.
The field is the largest for the Malibu since Oraibi won the 1988 running that also had 13 entries.
The Malibu is the first leg of the Strub Series for foals of 1998 that includes the $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes on Jan. 12 and the $400,000 Strub Stakes on Feb. 2.
Laffit Pincay is the defending Santa Anita jockey champion with 73 wins. Pincay, who turns 55 on Friday, is Thoroughbred racing's all-time leading winner.
Santa Anita's 85-day meeting continues through April 21, and features the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap for 4-year-olds and up on March 2 and the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby for 3-year-olds on April 6.
The field for the seven-furlong Malibu will consist of:
1--Yonaguska, Gary Stevens, 119
2--San Nicolas, Russell Baze, 119
3--Mizzen Mast, Kent Desormeaux, 117
4--Giant Gentleman, Garrett Gomez, 115
5--Griffinite, David Flores, 117
6--Scorpion, Alex Solis, 121
7--Brainy, Tyler Baze, 115
8--Mo Mon, Jose Valdivia Jr., 115
9--Until Sundown, Mike Smith, 117
10--I Love Silver, Eddie Delahoussaye, 117
11--Early Flyer, Chris McCarron, 117
12--Bay Head King, Victor Espinoza, 115
13--Discreet Hero, Laffit Pincay Jr., 117