12/21/2010 4:25PM

Rainstorm muddles the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes

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If the top sprinter in California wins the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Sunday, opening day of the winter meet at Santa Anita, he will win it despite an imperfect training pattern.

Smiling Tiger, third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and a two-time Grade 1 winner, faces a tall order in the seven-furlong Malibu. He has not had a workout since Dec. 12, and he might prefer six furlongs.

“I don’t see the distance as a problem,” trainer Jeff Bonde said Tuesday. “I just don’t like the fact that we haven’t been able to train the way we wanted. But pretty much everybody else is in the same boat.”

Yes, they are.

Twirling Candy could enter the Malibu without a work since Dec. 16; the same gap applies to brilliant allowance winner Alcindor. Caracortado also will run without a workout since Dec. 12.

Blame it on the rain.

The main track at Santa Anita was closed for training Tuesday as an unrelenting storm continues. Hollywood Park also was closed this week for workouts.

Bonde would have liked to work Smiling Tiger on Tuesday. “We’re going to try to have a breeze sometime this week,” he said.

The question is, when? The heaviest rain was forecast for Tuesday night; the Santa Anita track may not open for training until Thursday.

The good news is sun is in the weekend forecast, and the takeout rate for exotic wagers remains unchanged through Dec. 31. Nonetheless, opening week at the Great Race Place promises to be a challenge for both horses and handicappers.