Alex Solis, who has ridden Brother Derek in each of the colt's 13 starts, is expected to ride Arson Squad for Bruce Headley in the seven-furlong headliner as Santa Anita initiates its 85-day winter/spring meet. That would put Gomez aboard Brother Derek for trainer Dan Hendricks. Solis has ridden Arson Squad in all but one of the gelding's eight starts. Entries for the race will be taken Saturday.
"You can say he told me he was going to ride the horse," Headley said, referring to Solis' agent, Scott McClellan. Arson Squad is scheduled to have a half-mile blow out Friday morning.
In the Brother Derek camp, Hendricks said, "If we don't have Alex, we've got Gomez as a backup. He's the leading rider in the country (in purse money earned with nearly $22 million), so I'm sure he'll be fine."
Brother Derek breezed five furlongs Thursday under Luis Ortega at Hollywood Park in 1:00 1/5. "It was great," Hendricks said of the drill. "He was nice and relaxed, and I couldn't have asked for more. We're all set."
Brother Derek also was nominated to the Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIIT) at one mile on turf on opening day. "The Malibu is the race we always leaned towards," Hendricks said. "It's a Grade I and very prestigious."
Brother Derek was a creditable fifth at 22-1 in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) in his last start Nov. 4. Despite six wins from 13 starts and earnings of $1,533,458 for Canadian oilman Cecil Peacock, the California-bred son of Benchmark seems to be short on respect from the media.
"He doesn't have anything to prove," Hendricks said, "but as far as respect, I guess he won't get it until he becomes the shining star he was."
Brother Derek captured four consecutive stakes last winter and this spring, including the Santa Anita Derby and the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I), to establish himself as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), in which he dead-heated for fourth behind Barbaro.
Probable for the 55th running of the Malibu, first race in the Strub series: Arson Squad, Solis; Brother Derek, Gomez; Da Stoops, Martin Garcia; High Finance, Richard Migliore; Latent Heat, Edgar Prado; Midnight Lute, Victor Espinoza; Northern Soldier, Aaron Gryder; Sailors Sunset, Jon Court; and Spring at Last, Corey Nakatani. Possible: Potential, Souvenir Evening, and Wicked B. Havior.
Midnight Lute worked six furlongs Thursday in a bullet 1:11 for traner Bob Baffert.