12/26/2010 9:18PM

Fast track, tough trips

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Can’t remember the last time a 2-year-old maiden ran six furlongs as fast as The Factor in race 4 Sunday. The second-time starter set a Santa Anita record winning by eight and one-quarter lengths in 1:06.98. But first-timer Cook Inlet is one to follow after a super third-place debut.

Cook Inlet, a John Sadler-trained son of Candy Ride, broke well but had no speed. He was far back early, picked up steam into the turn, scraped paint rallying inside, and finished with run. “He traveled good and took everything in stride,” jockey Garrett Gomez said.

Cook Inlet has some learning to do. “You could tell his mind was not quite in the game yet,” Gomez said. “He wanted to play with the pony, things like that. His mind wasn’t quite there.”

Cook Inlet galloped out in front of the field, and figures to move up a ton when he figures out what he is doing. “He’s very promising,” Gomez said.

Arresting Officer and jockey Joe Talamo finished second as the 4-5 favorite in race 5, but he ran better than winner Thirtyfirststreet in the $100,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes at seven furlongs. Caught wide in a four-way jam while dueling through a hot pace (half-mile in 44.39 seconds), Arresting Officer put away the speed, but got collared by perfect-trip closer Thirtyfirststreet.

In race 6, the unseasoned Malibu Pier was making her first start in a graded stakes, the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs. When the gates opened, she got squeezed from both sides, shuffled back, and found herself dead last.

“I don’t know if it cost me the win or not, because the other filly (winner Switch) got loose turning for home by a long ways,” Gomez said. “It probably cost (Malibu Pier) three-four-five lengths betting pinched like that. She was able to overcome it, and kept trying.”

Malibu Pier rallied through traffic on the turn, split rivals in the lane, and narrowed the gap late to finish second in a terrific effort. She galloped out in front of Switch. Five starts into her career, Carla Gaines-trained Malibu Pier has a bright future indeed.

The main track was listed “good” for race 1 and “fast” the remainder of the card. Even with fast times (track records by The Factor and 1:19.70 Malibu winner Twirling Candy), Gomez gave the surface a thumbs-up.

“They’re going in it quite away, they’re moving across it but it’s not hard,” Gomez said. “It’s still a little bit of an “off” track. It doesn’t look like a 1:19-track. What it looks like, and the way they’re traveling, does not compare to the times.”

Opening day at Santa Anita, fast horses won fast races. After more than three grueling years on synthetic, it is about time.