Malibu Pier rewarded the confidence of trainer Carla Gaines when she scored an impressive half-length victory in the $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita grass April 16, the Malibu Moon filly's first try at 10 furlongs (VIDEO).
Ridden by journeyman Brice Blanc, Malibu Pier gained the lead in deep stretch and held off the hard-charging 7-5 favorite Cozi Rosie by a half-length on a sweltering day at Santa Anita.
Malibu Pier, a 4-year-old homebred owned by B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm, made it back-to-back grade II wins on the Santa Anita turf while completing the 1 1/4-mile test of older fillies and mares in a smart 2:00.22 over firm ground. She won the 1 1/8-mile Santa Ana Stakes March 19.
“We were fairly confident she could get the distance," said Gaines, who previously won the Santa Barbara with Foxysox in 2008. "She ran so well at a mile and an eighth (winning the Santa Ana). She’s done everything we’ve asked of her, so we were pretty confident.
"Brice did a great, great job with her today," Gaines added. "That was awesome. We just told him that she’s got the natural speed to take the lead going a mile and a quarter, but if someone else took it, she’d relax, but just to remember and hold off. She’s got a great turn of foot, so he waited and used that at the end and it was a great result.”
Blanc rode Malibu Pier's dam, the Lomitas mare Blue Moon, to victory in the 2002 Buena Vista Handicap (gr. IIT).
Malibu Pier forced her way to the front early, taking a one-length lead along the inside before settling into a stalking position in third, behind the longshots Restless Soul and Calle Vista in the field of six. Malibu Pier advanced on the outside rounding the final turn and was three deep in the homestretch as she rallied under left-hand urging from Blanc to get the lead.
She resisted gamely as Cozi Rosie, racing last to mid-stretch, came roaring late for jockey Mike Smith. Restless Soul, who posted moderate fractions of :23.94, :47.94 and 1:12,72, held on for third for Joe Talamo, 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Blanc took the riding chores on Malibu Pier from Rafael Bejarano, who opted for Turning Top in the Santa Barbara although he had ridden Malibu Pier in all eight of the filly's prior races. The Irish-bred Turning Top finished fourth as the narrow second choice at odds of 8-5, 2 1/2 lengths behind Malibu Pier.
Calle Vista and Andina trailed.
Malibu Pier completed a strong Santa Anita meet with the Santa Barbara win. In addition to the Santa Ana victory, the chestnut filly ran second in the La Brea Stakes (gr. I) behind Switch on the main track and was third in the Buena Vista Handicap (gr. IIT). She improved her career mark to 5-1-1 in nine starts with earnings of $342,200.
“I’ve had my eye on this horse ever since I saw who she was by," Blanc said. "I didn’t doubt her going a mile and one quarter. I had a beautiful trip. I was set on making the lead, but I saw Talamo kind of drew off (On Restless Soul).
"At that point she took a long hold, and I didn’t want to move too early. When they drew off she tried to test me a little bit. As soon as I got her covered she just shut down and relaxed beautifully. After that I just gradually moved my way outside and she drew away from everybody. She reminds me a lot of her mother."
Malibu Pier carried 119 pounds and paid $9.60, $3.80 and $3 as the third choice. Cozi Rosie, the 121-pound top weight, returned $3.40 and $2.80 in her first start since winning the Buena Vista Feb. 21 for trainer John Sadler. The British-bred mare Restless Soul was $5.60 to show.