Bob Black Jack went gate to wire to easily win the $250,000 Malibu Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) for 3-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths on opening day of the 2008-09 season at Santa Anita Park Dec. 26. It was the first graded stakes win for the California-bred Bob Black Jack.
In spite of setting quick fractions, Bob Black Jack had plenty left in the homestretch of the seven-furlong Malibu, holding off favored Into Mischief , who was making his final start. The final time was an excellent 1:20.20.
Regular rider David Flores was aboard Bob Black Jack, who was making his second start on the comeback trail for trainer James Kasparoff. The Malibu is the first of three legs of the Strub stakes series for foals of 2005. The second race, the San Fernando Breeders' Cup (gr. II), is Jan. 17.
Bob Black Jack loves Santa Anita, where the speedster set a six-furlong world record at Santa Anita in last January's Sunshine Million Dash when he was clocked in 1:06.53. The son of Stormy Jack--Molly's Prospector (Native Prospector) came back a couple of months later to finish second in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), just a half-length behind Colonel John. The dark bay colt earned his fourth win in 10 lifetime starts for owners Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff, the trainer's brother.
In the Malibu, Bob Black Jack was in control from the outset while racing slightly off the rail. Flores established rapid fractions of :22.45 and :44.95 while maintaining a clear lead over Guns On the Table and Georgie Boy.
Into Mischief, chasing from the rail, angled out four paths for the stretch run and for the briefest moment appeared capable of catching the leader. But Flores gave Bob Black Jack a couple of taps with the whip in the final furlong, and Bob Black Jack repsonded to prevail while drifting out a bit in the final strides under steady handling.
“With the way the race set up, with Into Mischief being inside (of Bob Black Jack), I kind of thought the draw was going to be very important in this race," said the 34-year-old conditioner Kasparoff. "Being able to get outside of that horse helped, and let’s face it, there wasn’t a lot of speed in there and that helped us out even more. If you get a few speedy types in there that are going to go with you, obviously, it’s going to make it a little tougher on him. But he can overcome those things if he has to.
"Today, it seemed like he really had it all his own way the whole way. When challenged, it was nice to see him respond. It looked like Into Mischief was going to get him, but (Bob Black Jack) was pretty full of run late in the race. It seems like (the track) was playing kind of quick, so all those things seemed to help us, and boy, it really, really feels good winning this. It just feels great.
"This is the biggest win of my life, the biggest win of this horse’s life. That will help him out down the road, hopefully. At some point, he’s going to be a stud, and winning a grade I won’t hurt. That’s good for him, and this is a much-deserved win for him."
Kasparoff pointed to the Sunshine Millions Sprint as the next goal for Bob Black Jack. "If he does well there, we’ll probably look at running in Dubai (in the $2-million Golden Shaheen at six furlongs on March 28),” he said.
Into Mischief, ridden by Victor Espinoza was a clear second over Georgie Boy, who had Edgar Prado in the saddle for the first time. Colonel John, making his first start since running sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), was looking for his third grade I win. But the second choice made hard work of things.
Colonel John tugged jockey Garret Gomez to the turn, split horses on the bend, and angled in for the homestretch. He was under pressure to just miss the show money. Guns On the Table, Nownownow, and Golden Spikes completed the order.
Bob Black Jack was overlooked in the wagering after a fifth-place finish in his tune-up, the Vernon O. Underwood (gr. III) Nov. 22 at Hollywood Park, in which he faded to fifth after pressing the pace from between horses. That was his first race since he set the early fractions and finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 3. He earned $150,000 for the Malibu victory, boosting his career total to $594,925.
“He needed his last race, no doubt about it," Flores said. "I knew nobody else had the speed this horse does, and I was hoping we could control the race and we did. He cleared right away and threw his ears up. Nobody else seemed like they were in a hurry, and he was doing it so easily. He finished up really strong, and I just hope he stays good and sound and we have another big year with him.”
Sent off as the fourth choice in the field of seven, Bob Black Jack paid $12, $5.20, and $3.60. Into Mischief, who is to be retired for stallion duty after a six-race career by owner B. Wayne Hughes, returned $3.40 and $2.80, completing a $2 exacta worth $41.60. Georgie Boy, also on the comeback trail for trainer Kathy Walsh, paid $3.40 to show.