Trainer Bob Baffert, who won a pair of grade I stakes on the closing weekend of the Hollywood Park fall meeting, is in a prime position to do it again as the Santa Anita winter meet opens Dec. 26. He will be represented by graded stakes winners Misremembered and Mythical Power in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I), the traditional meet-opening headline event worth $300,000 for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs.
In his Hall of Fame career, Baffert has never won the Malibu. It could be a grand day for the red-hot Baffert. He also has a leading contender in the grade I companion feature, the $300,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the same seven-furlong distance, in Gabby's Golden Gal.
The Malibu is the ninth event on the 10-race card, with the La Brea going off one race earlier. There is a third graded event on the card, the Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds on the turf at one mile. First post for the opening day of the 83-day stand is 11:30 a.m., with admission gates opening at 9:30 a.m.
The Malibu attracted a field of 13 sophomores, with Misremembered, Mythical Power and Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Papa Clem each carrying top weight of 121 pounds.
Misremembered, who drew the rail with regular pilot Victor Espinoza aboard, has done his best running at route distances, and Baffert acknowledged that he needs more ground. But the ridgling son of Candy Ride has been training so well since his narrow miss to Blame in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs one month ago, so Baffert could not resist taking a shot at grade I glory with a horse he also bred and co-owns with George Jacobs.
“Shortening up is not his bag,” said the 56-year-old trainer, “but good horses can win going seven eighths. He worked great the other day. We’ve got to take a shot for a grade I at $300,000.”
The chestnut won both the Swaps Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood Park and Hoosier Park's Indiana Derby (gr. II) this year in a campaign that has consisted of four wins and two seconds in eight starts with earnings of $638,589. In his only prior start over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride track, Misremembered ran sixth in his debut try against maidens in April.
Peachtree Stable's Mythical Power makes his first start since his 7 1/2-length romp in the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) May 9. The son of Congaree ran second in the Sunland Derby prior to that.
Mythical Power has a 2-2-1 mark in five starts this season and earnings of $458,000. He broke his maiden in his third career start on the Santa Anita main track in March. He is to be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario, and they break from post 5.
Bo Hirsch's Papa Clem is also coming off a layoff for trainer Gary Stute, his last appearance coming in a seventh-place finish in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) in his turf debut Sept. 6.
“He bled a little that day,” Stute said, “so we decided to give him a little time off and point for the new year.” Stute sent Papa Clem to trainer Vladimir Cerin’s facility in Bradbury where the bay colt received treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.
“He worked seven eighths the other day,” Stute said, referring to Papa Clem's 1:27 1/5 move Dec. 18 at Santa Anita. “I would have liked to have one other work in him, but he’s pretty close to fit. I’m anxious to get him back. My bank account needs the money.”
The Smart Strike colt has lost five in a row since his half-length score in the Arkansas Derby April 11, including a fourth-place showing in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Papa Clem, with earnings of $995,190, is poised to go over the million-dollar mark while compiling a lifetime record of 2-2-1 in 11 starts. His other win came in a maiden triumph at Santa Anita one year ago. Tyler Baze, returning to action after surgery for a broken finger, will ride from post 7.
Trainers Todd Pletcher and Doug O'Neill have each entered a pair in the Mailbu.
Pletcher entered Pennsylvania Derby runner-up Join in the Dance and Kinsella, who will be making his synthetic turf debut. Join in the Dance, a son of Sky Mesa , is coming off a last-place finish in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) last month. Team Valor International's Kinsella has made all four of his prior starts on turf, most recently posting a third-place effort in Keeneland's Bryan Station (gr. IIIT) over a yielding course Oct. 18.
O'Neill returns Square Eddie to action two weeks after he tired to fifth in Hollywood's 1 1/16-mile Native Diver (gr. III). Square Eddie won the Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland as a 2-year-old but has lost six in a row since.
O'Neill also entered Supreme Summit, coming off a second-place finish in Oak Tree's Damascus Stakes on the Breeders' Cup undercard Nov. 7.
The winner of that race, the Graham Motion trainee Smart Bid , and the third-place finisher, Bruce Headley's M One Rifle, who was favored, are also in the Malibu line-up.
$300,000 Malibu Stakes (gr. I), Race 9, 3:30 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Misremembered (KY), V Espinoza, 121, B Baffert
2. Kinsella (KY), G K Gomez, 115, T A Pletcher
3. Square Eddie (ON), J Talamo, 115, D F O'Neill
4. Supreme Summit (KY), M C Baze, 115, D F O'Neill
5. Mythical Power (KY), J Rosario, 121, B Baffert
6. Jeranimo (FL), B Blanc, 115, M Pender
7. Papa Clem (KY), T Baze, 121, G Stute
8. Join in the Dance (KY), C Sutherland, 115, T A Pletcher
9. Coronet of a Baron (FL), A Ajtebi, 115, E G Harty
10. New Bay (KY), A O Solis, 117, R E Mandella
11. Smart Bid (PA), J Rose, 119, H G Motion
12. Hunch (FL), R Bejarano, 115, J W Sadler
13. M One Rifle (CA), M E Smith, 117, B Headley
Blinkers Off: Jeranimo