Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Brother Derek is the marquee entrant among the 13 horses entered in the 44th running of the grade I Malibu Stakes as Santa Anita Park begins its 70th year of racing at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 26.But considerable attention will be afforded Swaps Stakes winner Arson Squad in the $250,000 event for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs that propelled racing legend Spectacular Bid toward a perfect nine-for-nine season in 1980 while setting the Malibu Stakes record of 1:20.Alex Solis, the regular rider of both horses, has chosen to ride the lesser accomplished Arson Squad in the opening day feature, and Bruce Headley, who trains the Pennsylvania-bred gelding, recently declared, "He's as good as any horse I've ever had." The 72-year-old trainer, thus, seemed to be placing Arson Squad in the same class as 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Kona Gold and multiple stakes winner Surf Cat. Solis begged off a comparison between Arson Squad and Brother Derek, saying he left the choice up to his agent, Scott McClellan. "It was a tough decision," Solis commented. "They are two really good horses." They are the Malibu's co-high weights at 121 pounds.Dan Hendricks, who trains Brother Derek, chose Garrett Gomez to replace Solis aboard the bay colt who has earned over $1.5 million and most recently finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic after setting the early pace. "He's the leading rider in the country," Hendricks wryly remarked in reference to Gomez, "so I'm sure he'll be fine."Owned by Jay Em Ess Stable, Arson Squad has won four of his eight starts while earning $372,450. His most impressive victory was recorded in Hollywood Park's grade II Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes on July 8 when defeating Point Determined and A.P. Warrior. The Malibu marks his first start in a grade I.Brother Derek has captured six of his 13 starts while banking $1,533,458 for owner Cecil Peacock. His Santa Anita Derby triumph over Point Determined and A.P. Warrior accounted for his second grade I win after taking the Hollywood Futurity as a 2-year-old. He finished fourth in both the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I).The complete field for the Malibu Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order:
1--Hyperbaric, David Flores, 117
2--Arson Squad, Solis, 121
3--Potential, Agapito Delgadillo, 115
4--Monarcho Polo, Jorge Chavez, 115
5--Brother Derek, Gomez, 121
6--Sailors Sunset, Jon Court, 119
7--Midnight Lute, Victor Espinoza, 119
8--Da Stoops, Martin Garcia, 119
9--Objective, Tyler Baze, 115
10--It's a Bird, Richard Migliore, 115
11--Northern Soldier, Aaron Gryder, 117
12--Latent Heat, Edgar Prado, 115
13--Spring At Last, Corey Nakatani, 115.
Two other stakes races have been carded on the nine-race program that constitutes Santa Anita's opening day, embellished by the track's traditional wall calendar giveaway: the grade III Sir Beaufort Stakes and the California Breeders' Champion Stakes. The Sir Beaufort is the seventh race; the Cal Breeders, the sixth, while the Malibu goes as the eighth.