The largest field in nearly a decade is expected for the 50th running of the Grade I Malibu Stakes, opening day feature of Santa Anita's prestigious 85-day winter/spring meet on Wednesday, Dec. 26.At least 11 horses are likely for the Golden Anniversary edition of the $200,000 Malibu, first leg of the Strub Series for 3-year-olds about to turn four, to be decided at seven furlongs."This will probably be the biggest Malibu field we've had in years," said Mike Hammerle, Santa Anita's assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator.
If all 11 go, it would equal the number of starters in the 1992 running, won by Star Of The Crop, trained by the late Willard Procter. Prior to that, the largest field was 13 in 1988.
"We'll have Early Flyer, who was second to Delaware Township in the DeFrancis, and Yonaguska, a multiple graded stakes winner from the (D. Wayne) Lukas stable," Hammerle said. "We also have I Love Silver, a perfect horse for seven-eighths, who's going to love this trip. (Bobby) Frankel's going to run Mizzen Mast on the dirt for the first time. The Malibu is a Grade I, so he doesn't want to pass on this opportunity, and I don't blame him."
With a rare eight-day break in the California racing schedule since the end of the Hollywood Park meet on Dec. 17, Hammerle is encouraged about the early outlook.
"We start off with 12 stakes in 10 days," Hammerle said. "The break is going to help us tremendously, because the horses are all fresh. Nominations for our upcoming stakes close today, but they're pouring in. They way things are shaping up through the 10 days of the first condition book, we're looking for a banner meet. We're looking for a lot of numbers (attendance and handle), and if we get lucky with the weather, I think we're going to have a great start."
In other Malibu developments:
--Mo Mon worked five furlongs Thursday in :59.20 for trainer Lance Stokes.
--Scorpion went five furlongs in 1:03.40 for D. Wayne Lukas while --Yonaguska worked five furlongs in :59 flat Wednesday.
--Early Flyer worked seven furlongs in 1:27.20 on Wednesday for Ron McAnally.
Probables for the Grade I, $200,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-old: Brainy, Tyler Baze; Discreet Hero, Laffit Pincay Jr.; Early Flyer, Chris McCarron; Giant Gentleman, no rider; Griffinite, David Flores; I Love Silver, Eddie Delahoussaye; Mizzen Mast, Kent Desormeaux; Mo Mon, Jose Valdivia Jr.; San Nicolas, no rider; Until Sundown, Mike Smith, and Yonaguska, Gary Stevens. Possibles include: Scorpion and Unbridled Time.