12/19/2009 1:00AM

Baffert eyes elusive Malibu

Barbara D. Livingston
Bob Baffert acknowledges that seven furlongs is not Misremembered?s best distance, but thinks his 3-year-old can overcome the shorter distance in Saturday?s Grade 1 Malibu.

Through all the success that earned him induction into racing's Hall of Fame earlier this year, trainer Bob Baffert has one trophy missing from his collection - the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes, the opening day fixture of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.

Baffert was second in 1997 with Silver Charm and third in 2006 with Midnight Lute, so it's not as if he has not started good horses in the race.

This year, he is considering two 3-year-olds for Saturday's $300,000 Malibu - Misremembered and Mythical Power.

Baffert admits that the seven-furlong distance of the Malibu is not ideal for Misremembered, who won the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes and Grade 2 Indiana Derby around two turns earlier this year and was second in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap over 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27.

"He needs more ground, but he's working well," Baffert said. "Shortening up is not his bag, but good horses can win going seven-eighths. He worked great the other day. We've got to take a shot for a Grade 1 at $300,000."

Baffert said Mythical Power has surprised him with his recent training, notably a five-furlong workout in 58.80 seconds Friday, the second-fastest of 35 recorded works at the distance. Earlier this month, Baffert feared Mythical Power, by Congaree, would not be ready for the Malibu, but Baffert was strongly considering starting him Saturday.

"If he bounces out [of the work], I might go with him," Baffert said. "He worked lights out, like it was nothing for him. He's a pretty serious horse himself."

Owned by Peachtree Stable, Mythical Power has won two of five starts. He was second to Kelly Leak in the famous Sunland Park Derby last March, in which eventual Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird finished fourth. Mythical Power followed that race with a 7 1/2-length win in the Lone Star Derby in Texas in May, his most recent start.

Mythical Power was considered for the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park and Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park during the summer but did not have a recorded workout from mid-July to mid-November.

The Malibu is expected to have a large field, including Coronet of a Baron, Feisty Suances, Jeranimo, Kinsella, M One Rifle, Misremembered, New Bay, Papa Clem, Square Eddie, Supreme Summit, and possibly Smart Bid.

Santa Anita kicks off with 10 races

Santa Anita opens its winter-spring meeting with a 10-race program that begins at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Aside from the Malibu and Sir Beaufort, there are two other stakes on the program: the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and the $100,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes for statebred 2-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles.

The La Brea field is expected to include Amazed by Grace, Evita Argentina, Dani Reese, Gaby's Golden Girl, Kays and Jays, Pinkerella, and Starlarks.

Zenyatta, a top Horse of the Year candidate, will be paraded between races. She ended her undefeated career with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.

Three familiar stewards returning

The California Horse Racing Board released steward assignments for the first six months of the year Friday, and three familiar names will have the task of officiating the races on the Southern California Thoroughbred circuit.

Scott Chaney, Kim Sawyer, and Tom Ward will preside over the Santa Anita winter-spring and the Hollywood Park spring-summer meetings, according to a statement released by the racing board. Those three were stewards during the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting earlier this fall.

More recently, Chaney and Ward were stewards at the Hollywood Park fall meeting that ended Sunday, and Sawyer spent the last several weeks at the Quarter Horse meeting at Los Alamitos.

The published calendar of stewards' assignments begins with the start of the Santa Anita meeting and continues through June 30.

Baffert filly scores impressively

Baffert has a promising 3-year-old filly in Gilded Gem, who improved to 2 for 2 by winning an allowance race at Hollywood Park on Friday.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Gilded Gem stalked the pace for the first half-mile, took the lead in early stretch, and won by 2 1/2 lengths over Stevie's Afleet, finishing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.06. Gilded Gem is by Smarty Jones and races for breeders Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds and Serengeti Stables.

"That filly, in the mornings, she worked well, but she does more in the afternoons," Baffert said. "She looked pretty good [Friday]. She looks like she could be any kind of horse. She will win a stakes."