Dirt racing returns to Southern California starting on Sunday with the opening of the new meeting at Santa Anita. Their traditional Boxing Day opener has their traditional feature on it in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs. A field of eleven will go postward with some very compelling runners, including some from the Breeders' Cup, Triple Crown, and some more lightly raced than the others. Here is the analysis for the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes:
I will select the horse I think might be the speed of the speed in the Malibu with #11 Smiling Tiger, who drew the far outside post position, which all in all might not be a bad thing here. He has not run since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, less than two lengths behind the winner, Big Drama. That race was run on conventional dirt, which was the first experience he had on such a surface. He also posted a strong, six-furlong bullet workout on December 12, going the distance in 1:12.2 at Golden Gate. Speaking of Golden Gate, Russell Baze is in to ride Smiling Tiger. For second, I will go with a horse I fancied in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile that did not live up to my expectations, #3 Thiskyhasnolimit. The Asmussen trainee ran seventh at Churchill Downs and lost ground in the stretch after being close to a hotly-contested pace at the top of the stretch. Things should be a little more spread out here and I think if you can get the morning-line of 12-1 with Asmussen and rider Garrett Gomez, you have to take it. For third, I will go with the inexperienced #2 Alcindor. The Bob Baffert trainee is undefeated in two starts, breaking the maiden during the Oak Tree meeting at Hollywood at six furlongs and then coming back to win during the regular Hollywood meet at seven furlongs, today's distance. Rafael Bejarano was up for the seven-furlong score, which was by a daunting margin of seven and a half lengths. The colt is well-bred with Unbridled on the top side and Storm Cat on the bottom side. Finally, I will go with #4 Caracortado to round out the top four selections. Caracortado was one of the Southern California contingent for the Triple Crown earlier this year. He ended up running seventh in the Preakness after being somewhat close to the pace. He took time off after the Preakness and came back in a turf sprint at Hollywood Park, which he won on November 11. Joe Talamo was up for that win on the turf and gets the call again here. He posted a quick, seven-furlong workout, going the distance in 1:23. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes:
$5 WP #11
$1 EX BOX 2-3-11
$1 TRI 11 with 2-3-4-9 with 2-3-4-9
They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. They Are Off wishes all of you a very Merry Christmas. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!