by Karen M. Johnson
Divine Park, undefeated winner of the Withers (gr. III) at Aqueduct in April, will run for the first time since that race in the Dec. 26 Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Nov. 15.
A 3-year-old son of Chester House, Divine Park has won three races from as many starts. The colt was sidelined after winning the $150,000 Withers by 3 1/4 lengths with a bruised cannon bone behind. After a 60-day layoff, Divine Park returned to McLaughlin’s New York barn.
McLaughlin said he believes Divine Park, who is owned by James J. Barry, is a special horse.
“He is a serious, serious horse, and we are really excited to get him back to the races,” McLaughlin said. “We were thinking about getting a prep in before the Malibu. We then decided we didn’t want to do too much before the Malibu by running in an allowance race and then running back in three or four weeks.”
Earlier this year, Divine Park won a maiden race on Aqueduct’s inner dirt track, and three weeks before winning the Withers scored in a first-level allowance race on Keeneland’s Polytrack.
McLaughlin said Divine Park will ship to California close to the day of the Malibu. Alan Garcia, who rode Lahudood to victory for McLaughlin in this year’s Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT), will ride.
The $250,000 Malibu, at seven furlongs, is the opening-day stakes at Santa Anita.