Weekend Lineup Presented by Christmastide Stakes Day At Laurel Park: Showdown In The Malibu

Saturday marks opening day at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., and racing secretary Chris Merz has put together an outstanding 11-race program that drew 104 entries (9.5 per race) and features six stakes races, including three Grade 1 contests: the Runhappy Malibu for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs, the La Brea for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs, and the American Oaks for 3-year-olds going 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Santa Anita has an early 2 p.m. Eastern/11 a.m. Pacific first post on Saturday.

The highlight will be the Malibu, a race won by such outstanding Thoroughbreds as Round Table, Buckpasser, Damascus, Spectacular Bid, Ferdinand, Shared Belief, Runhappy  and City of Light. Omaha Beach won the 2019 renewal.

Six were entered in this year’s Malibu, but most eyes will be on the big two: unbeaten morning line favorite Nashville, who made his stakes debut for trainer Steve Asmussen on the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup undercard at Keeneland, winning the Perryville Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths and setting a track record of 1:07.89 for six furlongs; and Charlatan, first in all three of his starts by a  combined 22 lengths for trainer Bob Baffert but disqualified from a win in the G1 Arkansas Derby because of a failed post-race drug test for lidocaine.

Unlike last year, when inclement weather pushed opening day back by two days, the forecast is for sunny skies and a high of 69 degrees in Arcadia, Calif.

Laurel Park in Maryland will be a bit colder for its big Christmastide Day program featuring eight stakes races, highlighted by the G3 Allaire duPont Stakes at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares, three and up. The forecast calls for clear skies and a high of a brisk 34 degrees on Saturday.

Christmastide Day kicks off at 12:25 p.m. Eastern with the $100,000 Heft Stakes for 2-year-olds going seven furlongs. That race is followed by seven successive stakes, each carrying a $100,000 purse, the $150,000 duPont being the lone exception.

Gulfstream Park has no graded stakes this weekend, but Saturday’s card features three turf stakes: the two-mile H. Allen Jerken Stakes and the Tropical Park Derby and Oaks for 3-year-olds and 3-year-old fillies, respectively, at 1 1/16 miles (11, 12, and 13 runners were entered in the respective races). Cool weather prevails at Gulfstream with a high of 64 but the track will be fast and turf course firm.

Here’s a brief look at some of the graded stakes (all times Eastern)

Saturday, Dec. 26

3:36 p.m. – $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile at Santa Anita

Smooth Like Strait was nailed on the money by Chad Brown-trained Domestic Spending in the G1 Hollywood Derby last out, but the Midnight Lute colt is going in top form for trainer Michael McCarthy. Mike Maker sends Field Pass west from Kentucky again after the colt by Lemon Drop Kid finished third behind Smooth Like Strait in the G2 Twilight Derby  in October.

https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/SA122620USA4-EQB.html

3:53 p.m. $150,000 Allaire duPont Stakes at Laurel Park

Eres Tu just won the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel for trainer Arnaud Delacour and the daughter of Malibu Moon is favored to earn her first graded stakes victory. Ice Princess comes off a runner-up effort in the G3 Comely at Aqueduct for trainer Danny Gargan and the New York-bred by Palace Malice figures to be running late. Stakes veteran Another Broad is 3-for-7 at Laurel and returns to Maryland after a third-place finish at Churchill Downs for trainer Steve Asmussen in the G2 Falls City.

https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/LRL122620USA8-EQB.html

5:09 p.m. – $200,000 San Antonio at Santa Anita

Mucho Gusto stepped up to win the G1 Pegasus World Cup in January for trainer Bob Baffert, then finished fourth in the inaugural Saudi Cup. He’s making his first start since that effort and will have to contend with the versatile Sharp Samurai, a multiple graded stakes winner on turf for trainer Mark Glatt who ran second on dirt behind Maximum Security in the G1 Pacific Classic and third behind Knicks Go in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland. Contention runs deep in this eight-horse field of older runners.

https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/SA122620USA7-EQB.html

5:43 p.m. – $300,000 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita

Chad Brown sends Motivated Seller west to try to reverse a narrow loss to Bob Baffert-trained Merneith in the Fort Springs Stakes on the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup undercard at Keeneland, but the Into Mischief filly will also have tepid morning line favorite Finite, from Steve Asmussen’s barn, to contend with. The latter has won 6-of-11 with three thirds and comes off a sharp score in the G3 Chillukki at Churchil Downs Nov. 21.

https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/SA122620USA8-EQB.html

6:17 p.m. – $300,000 American Oaks at Santa Anita

Four fillies shipped from the East Coast for this G1 contest, including two from the barn of multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown – English-bred Capital Structure, making her stakes debut under Joel Rosario, and Duopoly, who gets Flavien Prat in the saddle after winning the Winter Memories at Aqueduct Nov. 15. Graham Motion-trained Sharing, coming off a fourth-place finish to her elders in the G1 Matriarch at Del Mar, won over this course as a 2-year-old when taking the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and is favored in the morning line. Second choice Luck Money is the “now” horse for trainer Arnaud Delacour, coming off back-to-back wins at Keeneland and Belmont. These four appear to have the local runners over a barrel.

https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/SA122620USA9-EQB.html

6:51 p.m. – $300,000 Runhappy Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita

Nashville and Charlatan, two 3-year-old sons of Speightstown, both have shown to be dyed-in-the-wool front-runners in their combined six starts, though Charlatan’s last two races were around two turns. Like most Baffert runners coming off layoffs or making their debuts, Charlatan has been through a demanding training schedule and doesn’t figure to be “short” in his return. Nashville debuted at 6 1/2 furlongs in September at Saratoga, then blitzed rivals at six furlongs in his next two starts. If Charlatan makes him work early, that additional furlong might be a challenge and could set things up for someone like Collusion Illusion, a late-running sprinter who had a terrible trip in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, or Independence Hall, coming off a sharp allowance score for Michael McCarthy after more than six months on the shelf.

https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/SA122620USA10-EQB.html

Sunday, Dec. 27

6:51 p.m. – $100,000 Robert J. Frankel at Santa Anita

Chad Brown sent Irish-bred Miss Teheran to Santa Anita from Florida in search of his first Robert J. Frankel win, named for his late mentor. Winless in two U.S. starts, Miss Teheran will have Joel Rosario in the irons as she takes on, among others, the former Brown runner Altea, now trained by Michael McCarthy. They’ll both have the California-bred Mucho Unusual to beat, however. The Mucho Macho Man filly won the G1 Rodeo Drive over the same course Sept. 26, then was no match for Audarya in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland.

https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/SA122720USA9-EQB.html

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