Pavel didn’t open his racing career until July and quickly established himself as a talented performer, recording a convincing Grade 3 victory and a third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) in his first four starts. He appears poised to make a major impact in 2018 but will first look to cap his 3-year-old season with a Grade 1 victory in Tuesday’s $300,000 Malibu at Santa Anita.
One of four graded stakes on the traditional December 26 opening-day program, the 7-furlong Malibu has attracted a field of nine sophomores.
After rolling to an impressive debut win, Pavel followed with a respectable fourth in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga, finishing only a head back of Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and one spot better than Preakness victor Cloud Computing. Doug O’Neill shipped the son of Creative Cause to Parx for his third career start and Pavel crushed foes in the Smarty Jones (G3), scoring by six lengths beneath regular rider Mario Gutierrez.
The gray colt followed with a good showing in the 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, registering a career-best 108 BRIS Speed rating finishing only 1 ¾ lengths back in third, and Pavel will try to rebound after finding the waters too deep in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), checking in a well-beaten 10th behind Gun Runner.
A pair of well-regarded colts will make their anticipated stakes bows in the Malibu.
Dabster appeared ready to join the Triple Crown trail last winter after finishing first in his initial two starts for Bob Baffert (disqualified from debut) but headed to the sidelines and wasn’t seen again until the November 3 Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard at Del Mar, returning with a convincing win over entry-level allowance rivals. The well-bred son of Curlin cost $1 million at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old sale and Dabster will retain the services of Flavien Prat.
C Z Rocket brings a three-for-three mark into his first stakes appearance and hasn’t been seriously tested yet. A two-length debut winner at Saratoga, the Al Stall Jr.-trained colt followed with a 2 ½-length allowance tally at Keeneland. The latter came at 7-furlongs and C Z Rocket continued to shine while stretching out to a one-turn mile for his last outing at Churchill Downs, posting a two-length decision over a nice field that included Gotham (G3) winner J Boys Echo in second. By City Zip, C Z Rocket likes to rally from just off the pace with Jose Lezcano.
Favorable Outcome opened 2017 with a victory in the Swale (G2) at Gulfstream but the Chad Brown pupil wasn’t seen again under silks until September, returning with a close third in a Belmont allowance. The Flatter colt exits a nice tally over similar foes at Aqueduct and garnered a career-best 103 BRIS Speed rating in the 6 ½-furlong test. Javier Castellano will be in to ride.
Other contestants include Native Diver (G3) runner-up Irish Freedom; Heartwood, who ships west after a 68-1 upset in the lucrative Steel Valley Sprint at Mahoning Valley; City of Light, who has finished second as the favorite in his last two starts versus allowance foes; and California-bred stakes winner Edwards Going Left.