Buddy Gil, returns in  the Malibu Stakes.

Buddy Gil, returns in the Malibu Stakes.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Buddy Gil, Frankel Trio Top Malibu Stakes

Edited from track reports
The Malibu Stakes (gr. I), which features the return to competition of Buddy Gil and a trio from the Bobby Frankel barn, highlights Friday's opening day card at Santa Anita Park.

The $250,000 Malibu, for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, is one of three stakes on the card that begins the 84-day stand.

Special first post time on the nine-race program is 12 noon.

Buddy Gil, unbeaten in two starts on Santa Anita's main track, will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens as he makes his first start since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby.

"This is the spot we picked for his comeback," said trainer Jeff Mullins of Buddy Gil, winner of five of his 10 career starts including the Grade II San Felipe Stakes last March 16. "You've got to start somewhere. We're not planning on winning but we won't be disappointed if we do."

Buddy Gil, a gelded Kentucky-bred son of Eastern Echo, has been working forwardly for the Malibu, including a recent drill under Jerry Bailey.

"He was a gentleman to come out and work the horse," Mullins said of Bailey, "because he knew in the back of his mind he wasn't going to ride him (in the Malibu) because he had family obligations." Stevens has ridden Buddy Gil in his last four races, three of them victories.

Buddy Gil will have ample competition in the Malibu, which drew 13 entrants, including three from the barn of Bobby Frankel, who won the Malibu in 2001 with Juddmonte Farms' Mizzen Mast.

Frankel, seeking his fourth consecutive Eclipse Award and his fifth overall, entered Midas Eyes and Watchem Smokey, who will race as an entry for owner Edmund Gann, and Juddmonte's Special Rate, winner of the grassy Bien Bien at Hollywood Park on Nov. 11.

Midas Eyes was second to Congaree in the Cigar Mile on Nov. 29, while Watchem Smokey captured the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 27 for his seventh win from eight career starts. The 13 entrees have combined for 50 wins from 119 starts and earned more than $4 million.

The Malibu is the first leg of the Strub Series that includes the $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) on Jan. 10 and the $300,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) on Feb. 7.

The field for the Malibu in post position order:

1--Midas Eyes, John Velazquez, 119
2--Baltic Heights, Corey Nakatani, 115
3--Watchem Smokey, Pat Valenzuela, 119
4--Blazonry, Mike Smith, 117
5--Marino Marini, Tyler Baze, 115
6--Domestic Dispute, Alex Solis, 117
7--Buddy Gil, Gary Stevens, 121
8--Eye of the Tiger, Martin Pedroza, 117
9--Special Rate, Jose Valdivia Jr., 117
10--Posse, Corey Lanerie, 119
11--Southern Image, Victor Espinoza, 115
12--Toccet, Jorge Chavez
13--Zavata, Kent Desormeaux, 117.

The supporting stakes are the $75,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on turf and the $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes for 2-year-old California-bred colts and geldings at seven furlongs.