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M One Rifle shoots 'em up in Malibu

M One Rifle was the quickest draw in the West (Benoit Photo)
Bernstein, Greenspun, Headley et al's homebred M ONE RIFLE (One Man Army) sprinted clear when the gates opened and was never threatened in Saturday's $300,000 Malibu S. (G1) at Santa Anita, registering a 2 1/2-length score in his graded stakes debut. With Mike Smith at the helm, the Bruce Headley-trained gelding was always going easily on the front end as he posted splits in :22 4/5, :45 1/5 and 1:08 3/5, and the dark bay completed seven furlongs in 1:21 over the Pro-Ride.

M One Rifle, who broke from the far outside in the 13-horse field and paid $16.20, $6.80 and $5 as the 7-1 second choice, became the third straight California-bred, and fourth in the last five years, to garner the opening-day feature for three-year-olds.

"Winning this race is an exhilarating experience, on a day like today, with all these fans here," Headley said. "I've been trying to win the Malibu my whole life (Headley will be 76 on February 14), since 1952. I was confident at the sixteenth pole. This horse has natural speed...and Mike (Smith) did a masterful job. He reminds me of Shoe (Bill Shoemaker). That's why I ride Mike Smith."

Multiple Grade 2 winner Misremembered (Candy Ride [Arg]), the 2-1 favorite off a neck second in the Clark H. (G2), surged late for runner-up honors in his first start around one turn and paid $4 and $3.20.

"The outside post was definitely an advantage," Headley said. "The inside's always the worst (Misremembered broke from the rail), but the inside couldn't happen to a better man (referring to Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who sent out Misremembered). It's somebody to beat when you beat Mr. Baffert."

M One Rifle broke his maiden when making his second career start in early July at Hollywood Park. He followed it with a convincing wire-to-wire victory in the restricted Real Good Deal S. and an allowance/optional claiming score over open rivals. In the October 3 California Cup Sprint H., he finished second by a nose to Dancing in Silks (Black Minnaloushe), who subsequently captured the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1). M One Rifle rebounded from a disappointing third-place effort as the odds-on favorite in his previous start, a November 29 allowance/optional claiming test at Hollywood Park, in which he didn't make the early lead.

"I'm so proud of the way he's been improving," Smith commented. "At the quarter pole, I asked him to run and he just dropped down and gave it to me. When we headed for home I asked him for a little more and he was right there for me. He ran super."

Papa Clem (Smart Strike), who stalked the winner in second most of the way before losing the place in the final yards, gave back $6 for the bronze spot at 10-1. It was a half-length back to Supreme Summit (Cactus Ridge), who closed from last after a half-mile to grab fourth at 24-1. Next under the wire came Hunch (Lion Heart), Square Eddie (Smart Strike), Smart Bid (Smart Strike), Coronet of a Baron (Pure Prize), Jeranimo (Congaree), Mythical Power (Congaree), Join in the Dance (Sky Mesa), Kinsella (Mr. Greeley) and New Bay (Cuvee).

The $1 exotics paid $31.20 (exacta), $228.50 (trifecta) and $2,744.80 (13-1-7-4 superfecta).

The first foal to start out of the winning Leanessa (Bertrando), M One Rifle has a pair of half-siblings by Cyclotron, a yearling colt named M Two Forty and a 2009 filly. This is the female family of Grade 3 winner Palliser Bay (Frosty the Snowman). M One Rifle has now earned $378,572 from a 8-4-1-3 line.

"I'm pretty sure we'll keep him sprinting. I don't know yet (about his future plans)," Headley said.


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