Charlatan ‘Healthy’ For Highly-Anticipated Matchup With Nashville In Saturday’s Malibu

Charlatan, one in a battalion of bluebloods based in Bob Baffert’s barn, faces off against Nashville in the Grade 1 Runhappy Malibu Stakes on opening day, Saturday, Dec. 26, the marquee event as historic Santa Anita ushers in its 84th season of world-class racing.

This year’s Malibu is arguably one of the most anticipated in the event’s 70 runnings, pitting two immensely talented sons of 2004 Eclipse Award champion male sprinter Speightstown against one another.

The Malibu has been won in the past by a Who’s Who of Thoroughbreds, among them Runhappy (2015), Ferdinand (1986), Precisionist (1984), Spectacular Bid (1980), Ancient Title (1974), Damascus (1968), Buckpasser (1966) Native Diver (1962), Olden Times (1961), Hillsdale (1958), Round Table (1957) Determine (1955) and Calumet Farm’s star filly A Gleam (1953).

Last year it was won by star-crossed Omaha Beach, whose potential for further greatness on the track ended when he was retired to stud after a filling in his right hind leg prevented him from running in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 25 of this year.

Santa Anita’s traditional opening day is saturated with stakes, six in all, three of them Grade 1’s: the $300,000 Malibu for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs; the $300,000 La Brea for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs; and the $300,000 American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 ¼ miles on turf.

The Malibu, La Brea and American Oaks are the final three Grade 1 stakes to be run in the United States this year.

First post time on opening day will be 11 a.m.

Charlatan, a $700,000 chestnut colt, finished first in each of his three starts by a combined margin of 22 lengths but was disqualified from his six-length triumph in a division of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby May 2 on a medication violation. He has not raced since but is firing bullets for his return, a display as synonymous with Baffert as his signature white hair.

Through Dec. 6, Baffert led all trainers in Grade 1 wins this year with 15, four more than Chad Brown.

”Charlatan is doing really well,” said Baffert, who will be seeking his fourth Malibu victory, having won in 2018 with McKinzie, 2013 with Shakin It Up and 2011 with The Factor. “You can only do so much coming off a layoff going seven eighths…

“He’s healthy and that’s the main thing; he should run well.”

Baffert had to stop on Charlatan after May 2 due to a minor filling in a front ankle that he described at the time as “not even a flake.”

Saturday at Santa Anita, Charlatan worked five furlongs in :59.80, a tad off the time of Malibu contender Independence Hall, who went the same distance in a bullet :59 flat for Michael McCarthy.

Baffert also plans to run multiple graded stakes winner Thousand Words in the Malibu with John Velazquez aboard. Thousand Words last raced Oct. 3 in the Preakness, finishing eighth after pressing the pace. The son of Pioneerof the Nile has been working lights out for the Malibu, as two bullet breezes on Nov. 12 and Nov. 28 would attest, in addition to his five-furlong drill Friday in 59.80.

Nashville, a bay colt trained by Steve Asmussen, also has had three starts, winning by a combined margin of nearly 25 lengths, including the restricted Perryville at Keeneland by 3 ½ lengths on Nov. 7, in which he set a track record for six furlongs of 1:07.89. He has been working brilliantly since, including a bullet five furlongs in a minute flat, breezing, at Fair Grounds on Dec. 1.

Nashville is owned by China Horse Club and WinStar Farm and was bought for $460,000 by CHC and Maverick Racing, the purchasing arm of WinStar, from the Lane’s End consignment to the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

He will be ridden by 28-year-old Ricardo Santana Jr. from the Panamanian town of El Chorrillo. Santana, a 2008 graduate of the Laffit Pincay Jr. school for jockeys in Panama, also will do honors for Asmussen on Finite in the La Brea.

Strongly supporting the Malibu, La Brea and American Oaks are the Grade 2, $200,000 San Antonio Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles, a major steppingstone to the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 6; the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile for 3-year-olds on turf; and the grassy $75,000 Lady of Shamrock Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile. Overall, $1,375,000 in stakes money will be up for grabs.

Baffert has four horses nominated to the La Brea and plans to run all four: Merneith, who worked five furlongs Saturday in :59.80; Golden Principal, Himiko and Provocation. Himiko breezed four furlongs in :48 flat and Provocation in :47.40, both on Sunday, while Golden Principal went six furlongs Friday in 1:13.20.

Santa Anita’s stakes spectacular continues on Sunday with the Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf and the $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes for 2-year-olds at a mile on the grass.

The post Charlatan ‘Healthy’ For Highly-Anticipated Matchup With Nashville In Saturday’s Malibu appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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