It is a racing tradition that every year on the day after Christmas, the season starts at Santa Anita, the Great Race Place in Southern California. The usual opening day feature in Arcadia is the Grade 1 $300,000 Malibu and that is the case on Monday afternoon. Here is the analysis:
#1 El Pocho- Can you say "mystery horse"? He has two starts in Chile and has not been to the races since the end of June. He did post a bullet workout on December 22 over the Cushion surface at Hollywood Park. He would be quite the upset to win in this spot.
#2 Centralinteligence- Posted a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in running 2nd last time out at Hollywood on November 27. The horse that beat him in that Allowance race is coming up later in this analysis. On the other hand, he did win his only previous outing over the Santa Anita track.
#3 Luckarack- By far, the most experienced horse in this field with sixteen career starts. He has won seven of those, the most recent last time out on December 1 in an open claiming race at Hollywood. His lone stakes victory came in the Kostoff at Fairplex in September. This is a slightly more difficult race than that.
#4 Rothko- Working on a three-race win streak entering Monday. Those three wins came at three different racetracks (Saratoga, Monmouth, and Churchill Downs). This Steve Asmussen trainee will have the riding services of Corey Nakatani for his stakes debut.
#5 Racing Aptitude- An offspring of a Kentucky Derby runner-up, this gelding was a winner in the Yo Eleven, fittingly enough on 11/11/11 at Hollywood Park. However, that was a restricted race, so this might not be the biggest bullet in trainer Bob Baffert's four-horse holster in here.
#6 Hoorayforhollywood- While he is still eligible for non-winners of two, I think this Baffert runner could be a possibility in the Malibu. His lowest career Beyer number from four tries is a 94, which came in the last two. He finished 2nd in both of those races and his workouts leading up to this race have been blazing.
#7 Light Up The Score- Broke the maiden in the slop two back at Churchill Downs on November 3. Came back 22 days later to win again with Javier Castellano aboard. Victor Espinoza rides Monday, so he will have three different jockeys in the last three races and attempt to win them all.
#8 Smash- This horse has defeated two horses I fancy quite a bit in here, Centralinteligence and Hoorayforhollywood, in two separate races over the Cushion at Hollywood. His lone dirt track effort was at Calder two back in the Grade 2 Carry Back and he ran 2nd to Indiano. That was also the lone race in which he was not the favorite.
#9 Associate- Well, his last two starts in New York have resulted in wins by large margins, a total of 18 3/4 lengths when added together. Ramon Dominguez leaves his comfort zone of The Big A to motor west and ride this one. I am interested to see how he performs in his first start away from the New York area.
#10- Wine Police- A $190K purchase at Keeneland in 2009, he was within 3 1/2 lengths of Boys At Tosconova in the 2010 Hopeful. He also ran within 4 1/4 lengths of Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner, Caleb's Posse, in the Grade 2 Amsterdam this summer. The distance is a question since he has yet to win past 6 1/2 furlongs. He faded a little late in the two aforementioned races.
#11 The Factor- Although I guess you could call him The X Factor in this race. He is all about the speed and it might set up where he gets a lonely lead in here, I just don't think that is going to happen. He stopped badly in his last two starts, the Grade 1 Ancient Title and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. The recent works are strong, I just want to see him do it again before I once again put my faith in him.
TOP FOUR SELECTIONS: 6-2-11-8
Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again later this week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!