05/28/2011 2:23PM

Hollywood Park: Malibu Pier facing familiar rivals in Gamely

Benoit & Associates
Malibu Pier, with Brice Blanc riding, wins the Santa Barbara.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Malibu Pier won consecutive turf stakes at Santa Anita in March and April, an accomplishment that has not scared the losers of those races from Monday’s $250,000 Gamely Stakes at Hollywood Park.

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Turning Top was a troubled second to Malibu Pier in the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes on March 19, and Cozi Rosie was beaten a half-length by Malibu Pier in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap on April 16. They are Malibu Pier’s principal rivals in the Grade 1 Gamely, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Those three fillies and mare are seeking their first wins in a Grade 1.

Cozi Rosie is facing Malibu Pier for the third time this year, having beaten her in the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap over a mile on turf at Santa Anita in February. In the Santa Barbara over 1 1/4 miles, Cozi Rosie was sixth with a furlong remaining and closed well to just miss as the favorite.

“She was unlucky the other day, I thought,” trainer John Sadler said. “This is the rubber match.”

Turning Top was genuinely unlucky not to beat Malibu Pier in the Santa Ana, slipping dramatically on the turn of the Santa Ana Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf. Jockey Joel Rosario was able to regroup Turning Top and lost by a length.

“I thought she would have beaten Malibu Pier that day,” trainer Simon Callaghan said.

Turning Top was a disappointment in the Santa Barbara, finishing fourth as the 8-5 second choice. “She seemed a bit dull after that race,” Callaghan said. “We couldn’t put our finger on it.”

Callaghan has two runners in the Gamely, starting the improving Dubawi Heights who won her first stakes in the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap on April 30. The one-mile turf race was the third consecutive win for Dubawi Heights, 4.

“She’s a tough filly,” Callaghan said. “I think she’s continuing to improve and getter better.”

Callaghan, for one, knows that Dubawi Heights and Turning Top must be at their best to beat Malibu Pier. “Malibu Pier is the filly to beat,” he said. “She’s a progressive filly in her own right.”

The Gamely has a field of eight, including three Group 1 or Grade 1 winners. Celtic Princess, likely to set the pace, was a Group 1 winner in Brazil in 2007. Last year, Madera Castana, who will be a longshot, won a Group 1 in Chile. Eclair de Lune has the most prestigious win of any of the Gamely runners, the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park last year. She is winless in four subsequent starts, but has encountered trouble in her last two races. Restless Soul, third in the Santa Barbara, is also in the field and could be part of the pace.

The presence of those runners does not overly concern jockey Brice Blanc, who will ride Malibu Pier for the second time in the Gamely.

“She’s a pretty handy filly to ride,” he said. “I hope there is enough pace to get her to settle.”

Owned by breeder B. Wayne Hughes, Malibu Pier is trained by Carla Gaines. A 4-year-old filly, Malibu Pier has won 5 of 9 starts, and 4 of 6 on turf.

“I was really excited to ride her the first time,” Blanc said. “A mile and a quarter was no problem, and I think she’s got a ton of talent, there is no doubt. Going back to a mile and an eighth, it would be great to win a Grade 1 with her.”