Undefeated Flightline has hinted of freakish talent in his two starts, and the John Sadler pupil hopes to confirm that impression as he takes on Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) near-misser Dr. Schivel in Sunday’s $300,000 Malibu S. (G1). The most anticipated of the six stakes on the opening-day card at Santa Anita, the Malibu has also attracted another unbeaten stakes firster, American Pharoah’s half-brother Triple Tap.
Malibu (G1) – Race 10 (6:30 p.m. ET)
Dr. Schivel sets the standard on form. Last year’s Del Mar Futurity (G1) hero established himself as a top sprinter by defeating elders in the Bing Crosby (G1) and Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2). The Mark Glatt pupil appeared on his way to Breeders’ Cup glory, only to be mugged by Aloha West in a brutal beat. Dr. Schivel will try to advance his divisional Eclipse Award candidacy here with new pilot Juan Hernandez, who last rode him to his maiden score.
His hitherto regular rider, Flavien Prat, sticks with the brilliant Flightline, who hasn’t been tested in a pair of six-furlong outings. Considering how the $1 million Tapit colt drew off by 13 1/4 lengths on this track April 24, and by 12 3/4 lengths at Del Mar Sept. 5, the seventh furlong of the Malibu shouldn’t be an issue. Flightline registered a jaw-dropping 117 Brisnet Speed rating in his allowance conquest last out, improving from a 105 on debut, compared to Dr. Schivel’s career high of 104. The budding superstar will break just to the outside of the established class, with Flightline in post 5 and Dr. Schivel in post 4.
Fellow Tapit colt Triple Tap is 2-for-2 for Bob Baffert. After employing forward tactics in a course-and-distance maiden back in March, the blueblood returned from a layoff to take an entry-level allowance with a strong closing rush on Breeders’ Cup Friday at Del Mar. Triple Tap is tactically drawn on the outside with John Velazquez, who takes over from Prat.
Iowa Derby victor Stilleto Boy shortens up after a series of creditable efforts. Placed to ill-fated Medina Spirit in the Awesome Again (G1) and Shared Belief, he exits a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Two are coming off the Nov. 22 Steel Valley Sprint at Mahoning Valley – 59-1 shock winner Timeless Bounty, who has since been transferred to Bob Hess Jr., and unplaced favorite Baby Yoda, previously third in the Vosburgh (G2). Rounding out the septet is Team Merchants, who goes turf to dirt for Doug O’Neill. Although successful in the grassy Let It Ride S. two back, the Reddam Racing homebred appears best suited to sprinting on dirt.
La Brea (G1) – Race 8 (5:30 p.m. ET)
The companion race for three-year-old fillies, the $300,000 La Brea (G1), pits the Baffert duo of Private Mission and Kalypso against another Sadler up-and-comer, Livingmybestlife.
Private Mission won three straight, including the Zenyatta (G2) and Torrey Pines (G3), before fading to last in an unsustainable Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) pace. Reverting to one turn can help her rebound with Prat. Stablemate Kalypso has not raced since she bled, and was eased, in the Apr. 30 Eight Belles (G2). But she’d earned her signature win at this track and trip in the Jan. 3 Santa Ynez (G2), and the formerly consistent filly had placed in the Starlet (G1), Las Virgenes (G3), and Santa Ysabel (G3).
Livingmybestlife has wired her past two, the Sept. 24 Lucky Spell S. at Los Alamitos and Nov. 3 Seashell S. when trying a mile at Del Mar. Hernandez retains the mount as she cuts back to her usual one turn. Inexperienced Missy P., a stakes-placed full sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Mia Mischief, is intriguingly spotted off a layoff by Richard Mandella. Mike Smith takes the call. Other contenders include last-out Zia Park Distaff romper Canoodling, now with Mike Puype; Cal-bred stakes performer Eddie’s New Dream, victorious in a turf route in her latest; and Santa Ynez third Brilliant Cut, who recently won second off the bench here for O’Neill.