Flashback faces a full field in the Malibu Stakes.

Flashback faces a full field in the Malibu Stakes.

Benoit Photo

Full Field to Meet Flashback in Malibu

Bob Baffert-trained colt likely pick as Santa Anita opens six-month season Dec. 26.

Betfair Hollywood Park has sadly faded into the Southern California sunset, but Santa Anita Park opens for a new season Dec. 26 with a couple of extra months tagged on at the end of the meet.

It remains to be seen how all of that will work as Santa Anita extends from April through a separate spring meet that will run until June 29. But the traditional day after Christmas opening of the Arcadia track always brings a feeling of a fresh start, never more so than this year.

A nine-race card will open the six-month long stand Thursday, highlighted by a pair of grade I stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on the main track, the $300,000 Malibu and the $300,000 La Brea for fillies. The program includes a one-mile turf test also restricted to 3-year-olds, the Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIT).

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will bring out a trio for the Malibu, the featured eighth event on the card with a 3:30 p.m. PST post. A field of 12 is entered.

Baffert's entrants are headed by Flashback , who was the beaten favorite when second in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in April and went to the sidelines after sustaining a knee chip in the race. Idle until running second as the 3-10 favorite in Santa Anita's Damascus Stakes Nov. 2, the striking gray colt by Tapit  appears primed for a top effort on Thursday.

Owned by Gary and Mary West, Flashback was the leading Triple Crown contender on the West Coast with a 6 1/4-length score in only his second start, the 1 1/16-mile Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 2. He has had a steady string of solid works at Santa Anita since the Damascus, with his most recent drill a rapid six furlongs from the gate in 1:11 2/5 Dec. 16.

Flashback, who will be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario, has two wins and a three seconds from five starts and $377,000 in earnings.

Baffert's other entrants are Shakin It Up , winner of the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) in February and making his first start since finishing fourth in the Sunland Derby March 24; and Zayat Stables' Zee Bros, making his first appearance since running fifth in the Woody Stephens (gr. II) at Belmont Park June 8.

A primary Malibu contender is the unbeaten Bakken, shipping in from Palm Meadows training center off a pair of ultra-impressive gate-to-wire wins going six furlongs in New York, both times as the favorite. Trained by Chad Brown, the Distorted Humor  colt was not headed in either win and could be the speed of the Malibu field along with the Jeff Bonde-conditioned Distinctiv Passion.

"He always showed a lot of talent in the morning," Brown said. "It just took him time to get to the races. We have a lot of confidence in him."

Bakken won his two New York starts by a combined 8 3/4 lengths while recording Beyer figures of 97 and 96, respectively, for owners Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr. He breaks from post 10 with Javier Castellano coming in to ride.

Owned by Edward Brown Jr., Philip Lebherz, and Alan Klein, Distinctiv Passion ran a huge third in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (gr. I) Oct. 5, cutting out blistering splits of :21.45, :43.69, and :55.80. The With Distinction colt has four wins and four thirds from nine starts with $221,930 in earnings and could likely be sent from the gate again by jockey Edwin Maldonado. 

Distinctive Passion has been in steady training at Santa Anita with his most recent work a half mile in :46 1/5 prior to entries being taken Dec. 21.

Zeewat, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, defeated Flashback in the Damascus by a head. Rafael Bejarano retains the mount on the Pennsylvania-bred son of Harlan's Holiday.

Resurgent Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens climbs aboard Heir of Storm for the first time. In his first start for Miller on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita, the Wildcat Heir colt annihilated 10 rivals at odds of 37-1, winning a seven-furlong allowance gate to wire by 4 1/4 lengths while earning a career-best Beyer figure of 102. 

$300,000 Maibu Stakes (gr. I, Race 8, 3:30 p.m.), 3YOs, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Syndicated (KY), V Espinoza, M Pender
2. Shakin It Up (KY), D R Flores, B Baffert
3. Heir of Storm (FL), G L Stevens, P Miller
4. Flashback (KY), J Rosario, B Baffert
5. Zeewat (PA), R Bejarano, J Hollendorfer
6. Demonic (KY), C S Nakatani, J W Sadler
7. Central Banker (KY), J Talamo, A M Stall Jr.
8. Holy Lute (KY), M E Smith, J M Cassidy
9. Zee Bros (KY), M Garcia, B Baffert
10. Bakken (KY), J Castellano, C C Brown
11. Distinctiv Passion (FL), E A Maldonado, J Bonde
12. Our Double Play (KY), F C Torres, P A Bauer
All assigned 118 pounds.