Jockey Alex Solis' choice of Arson Squad over favored Brother Derek in Tuesday's grade I Malibu Stakes was left in the wake of fourth choice Latent Heat, who rallied under Edgar Prado to take Santa Anita's opening day feature for 3-year-olds by two lengths over another outsider, Spring At Last, before an on-track crowd of 32,931.
Brother Derek, the 2-1 favorite, finished seventh with substitute rider Garrett Gomez seeking his fifth victory of the afternoon. The Santa Anita Derby winner nosed out eighth-place Arson Squad, the 3-1 third choice, in the $250,000 seven-furlong stake's 55th renewal. The winning time was 1:21.39.
Prado placed Latent Heat just off the early pacesetters. They passed Da Stoops, who would fade to fourth, entering the stretch and won convincingly. Spring At Last, with Corey Nakatani in the saddle, rallied to finish a head in front of 3-1 second choice Midnight Lute.
It was the second Malibu triumph for trainer Bobby Frankel, who saddled his 852nd winner at Santa Anita to move within 17 victories of all-time leader Charlie Whittingham. "If I can live that long, maybe I'll get there," quipped the 65-year-old Frankel, who could overtake the legendary Whittingham during the current 85-day meet.
A winner of his two previous races, Latent Heat's last start proved disappointing when finishing ninth in Keeneland's grade III Perryville Stakes. Frankel said an infection was detected in the bay colt's system afterward. "He performed like he was supposed to today," noted Frankel.
"He was ready today," said Prado. "It seemed like the speed was doing good today. He broke great. I took a little hold and got a good position in behind the leaders. He was ready."
The winner paid $13.40, $8.20 and $5.40. The prices on Spring At Last were $13.80 and $7.40. Midnight Lute paid $4.60 to show.
The Malibu marked the first graded stakes victory for Latent Heat, a son of Maria's Mon owned and bred by Juddmonte Farms. The winning purse of $150,000 almost doubled his previous earnings, which were increased to $327,400. It was his fifth win in nine starts.
Gomez said Brother Derek, who was unable to add to his earnings of over $1.5 million, encountered trouble while racing on the inside early. "He wasn't liking it down there, and I couldn't do anything with him," said the nation's leading rider.
Gomez picked up his fourth victory on the program in the sixth race, the 67th running of the $141,375 California Breeders Champion Stakes, when he brought favored Pirates Deputy from eighth in the field of nine California-bred 2-year-olds to win the seven-furlong event by one length over longshot Tap It Light.
A gelded son of Bertrando, Pirates Deputy covered the distance in 1:23.66 to return $6, $4 and $2.80. Tap It Light, ridden by David Cohen, paid $21.60 and $8.80. It was another three-quarters length back to Complexity, who paid $4 to show with Nakatani aboard.
The winner, trained by Bob Baffert for The Lanni Family Trust and Schiappa, will be pointed for the classic trail, according to his trainer. "He's a big, gangly horse and we'll stretch him out and get him ready for the Derby trail," Baffert said. "When I saw he was that far back, I thought he was really going to have to put the after-burners on. He's the kind of horse that's been coming up short. Today, was his turn."
The winning purse of $84,825 increased the overall earnings of Pirates Deputy to $386, 462 for an overall record of 2-4-1 in seven races.
Aboard second choice In Summation in the grade III Sir Beaufort Stakes, Gomez settled for fifth as jockey Richard Migliore recorded his first Santa Anita win while handling 6-1 shot Kip Deville in the one-mile grass stake for 3-year-olds.
Migliore, who recently moved his base to California from the East at the age of 42, rallied Kip Deville along the rail to defeat Awesome Gem by one length while timed in 1:36.12. Zann finished a nose back in third. It was the first Santa Anita stakes victory for trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr., one of the foremost trainers in the East."I can't even begin to describe how thrilled I am to win a race like this here on opening day," Migliore said afterward. "When I walked in here this morning, it was an unbelievable feeling. The atmosphere here, with the big crowd, the mountains, I mean this is Santa Anita."Kip Deville, an Oklahoma bred son of Kipling, paid $16.40, $9.20 and $5.60. Awesome Gem, with Tyler Baze in the irons, returned $17.40 and $8.60. The show price on Zann, ridden by David Flores, was $5.80.
The victory was the sixth in 14 starts for Kip Deville, who earned $68,580 to bring his career total to $468,642 for owners IEAH Stables, Dan Borislow and Sanford Robbins.