04/16/2011 8:14PM

Santa Anita: Blanc proves capable replacement rider on Malibu Pier in Santa Barbara

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BENOIT PHOTO
Malibu Pier, ridden for the first time by Brice Blanc, captures the Santa Barbara Handicap.

ARCADIA, Calif.- Last weekend, Malibu Pier was briefly without a rider for Saturday’s $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita after jockey Rafael Bejarano committed to rival Turning Top in that race.

Trainer Carla Gaines chose Brice Blanc as a replacement on Malibu Pier. Chances are Blanc will not be climbing off Malibu Pier in the foreseeable future.

Winning her second consecutive stakes, Malibu Pier ($9.60) had an ideal trip under Blanc in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara, closing from third in a field of six in the final furlong to win by a half-length over 7-5 favorite Cozi Rosie. Restless Soul, a 23-1 outsider who set the pace, finished third, followed by Turning Top, Calle Vista, and Andina. Malibu Pier ran 1 1/4 miles on turf in 2:00.22.

Blanc had Malibu Pier about two lengths behind Restless Soul in early stretch and got a response with a three-wide rally.

“She’s got a great turn of foot and he used that,” Gaines said of Blanc. “It was a good result. She’s been tearing the barn down lately.”

Owned by breeder B. Wayne Hughes’s Spendthrift Farm, Malibu Pier, 4, has won 5 of 9 starts and $342,200. Malibu Pier made her fifth start of the Santa Anita meeting in the Santa Barbara, a performance preceded by a win in the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on March 19.

Gaines said in the winner’s circle that Malibu Pier, who is by Malibu Moon, will be pointed for the $250,000 Gamely Stakes, a Grade 1 over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on May 30.