M One Rifle, a 7-1 shot, went all the way on the front end to post an easy win in the $300,000 Malibu Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) over favored Misremembered for veteran trainer Bruce Headley on opening day at Santa Anita Dec. 26.
The 75-year-old Headly, who bred and owns M One Rifle in partnership, said afterward he has wanted to win the race since 1952. He finally accomplished it with the 3-year-old son of One Man Army--Leanessa, horses that were also trained by Headley.
“Winning this race is an exhilarating experience, on a day like today, with all these fans here," Headley told HRTV. "I’ve been trying to win the Malibu my whole life, since 1952."
Ridden by Mike Smith, M One Rifle became the third consecutive California-bred to go gate-to-wire in the seven-furlong Malibu, following Johnny Eves in 2007 and Bob Black Jack last year. This was the first graded stakes win for M One Rifle. The dark bay or brown gelding who has won four of seven starts and while never finishing out of the money.
Breaking from the far outside in a field of 13, the winner went directly to the front and angled in. He set quick fractions -- :22.98, :45.28, and 1:08.60 -- tracked by Papa Clem and Square Eddie, and spurted away in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths under left-handed urging, completing the seven-furlong test of 3-year-olds in a smart 1:21.05 over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride synthetic surface.
Misremembered, the 2-1 choice, rallied for second for Victor Espinoza after dropping back along the inside in upper stretch. Papa Clem, with Tyler Baze aboard, finished third.
Supreme Summit ran fourth, followed by Hunch, Square Eddie, Smart Bid , Coronet of a Baron, Jeranimo, Mythical Power, Join in the Dance, Kinsella and New Bay.
M One Rifle, who was favored in each of his previous six starts, is also owned by Ed Bernstein, Brian Greenspun, et al. Bernstein, Greenspun, and Irwin Molasky are also the co-breeders along with Headley. M One Rifle earned $180,000 for the victory, nearly doubling his career purse total to $378,572. He was coming off a closing third-place finish at Hollywood Park Nov. 29 against an optional claiming field going six furlongs.
The Malibu is the opening leg of Santa Anita's Strub series for horses foaled in 2006. It continues Jan. 16 with the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) and the 1 1/8-mile Strub (gr. II) on Feb. 6. Headley indicated that M One Rifle is most likely to remain in sprint races.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll keep him sprinting," Headley said. "I don’t know yet.
"In 1952 I was galloping Berseem," Headley recalled. "He broke a world’s record at Golden Gate in eight and three (1:08 3/5 for six furlongs) as a 3-year-old. He came back and ran in the Malibu (in 1954) and they broke the world’s record that day (1:20 3/5 for seven furlongs), but he got beat a nose by Imbros. That’s when I was 18, so I’ve always wanted to win the Malibu since that time. It’s taken me this long, 57 years.”
Carrying 117 pounds, M One Rifle went off as the second choice in an evenly-wagered event and paid $16.20, $6.80, and $5. The $2 exacta was $62.20.
The distance proved to be a hinderance for Misremembered ($4, $3.20), who was coming off a game runner-up finish to Blame against older rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs last month. A two-time grade II winner this year for trainer Bob Baffert, the son of Candy Ride was also stuck with the rail for the first one-turn race of his career.
Papa Clem, winner of the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) this spring before his fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was $6 to show. This was his first sprint race since he was a maiden for trainer Gary Stute.