12/21/2012 5:45PM

Santa Anita: The Lumber Guy tops deep Malibu Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
The Lumber Guy will make his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and first start for trainer Neil Drysdale in the Grade 1 Malibu.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Christmas came early for trainer Neil Drysdale, who had owner Barry Schwartz move The Lumber Guy to his barn for winter racing at Santa Anita following his runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He gets to play with that present Wednesday, when The Lumber Guy heads an outstanding field of 10 in the Grade 1, $300,000 Malibu Stakes, highlight of the terrific opening-day card at Santa Anita.

The Malibu is the eighth race on a nine-race card that begins at noon Pacific. It is the second of two Grade 1 races, preceded by the La Brea for fillies, featuring champion My Miss Aurelia.

The Lumber Guy showed raw talent right from the start, winning his first two starts, but he solidified his position as one of the nation’s elite sprinters in the fall, when he won the Vosburgh and followed that up with a game effort behind Trinniberg in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Both those races were at six furlongs, but he won the Jerome, a one-turn mile, in April, so the seven furlongs of the Malibu should be in his wheelhouse.

The Lumber Guy has worked five times for Drysdale since Nov. 26, including a six-furlong drill in 1:14 on Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park, where Drysdale is based.

“Everything’s been very straightforward with him,” Drysdale said. “He’s a lovely horse – very attractive, well made. And he’s a happy horse.”

The Lumber Guy will run into a few buzzsaws. This Malibu is one of the best in years. Others in the race include Unbridled’s Note, who was second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and third in the King’s Bishop, and the comebacking Drill, who won the seven-furlong San Vicente here in February and has trained brilliantly for his first start since May, including a blazing six-furlong gate work in 1:10.20 on Friday.

“He’s doing really well,” said his trainer, Bob Baffert, who has four horses entered in the Malibu. “But it’s gonna be a really tough race. It’s not gonna be an easy Malibu.”

Baffert also will send out Fed Biz, who is shortening up after a disappointing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, as well as Castaway and Guilt Trip.

Castaway, who won a division of the Southwest Stakes in February, is making his first start since April. He, too, has worked well for his return, though his best races have been around two turns.

Guilt Trip, previously trained by Chad Brown, has defeated maidens and a first-level allowance field in four starts. This will be his first race outside New York and against Grade 1 company.

Why so many?

“It’s a Grade 1. Worth taking a shot,” Baffert said.

Unbridled’s Note unites trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Corey Nakatani, who team with My Miss Aurelia earlier in the day in the La Brea. Unbridled’s Note might have been best in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop, which he lost by a half-length after encountering severe traffic trouble through the stretch.

“He was pretty unlucky,” said Scott Blasi, Asmussen’s top assistant.

Jimmy Creed was a disappointing ninth of 14 in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, in which he was compromised by an inside post in the large field. He is capable of better, having finished third behind the older pair of Coil and Capital Account in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship in October, but he again drew inside, post 2 of 10, so he has to get out and go.

Politicallycorrect returns from Florida to Santa Anita, where he won the seven-furlong Damascus on the Breeders’ Cup undercard Nov. 3. He has two wins and a second in three starts at the Malibu distance.

Private Zone, second to Politicallycorrect in the Damascus, subsequently finished second to the older Smiling Tiger in the Grade 3 Underwood at Hollywood Park on Dec. 2. He is one of two entrants for trainer Doug O’Neill, who also sends out Basmati.

Basmati returned from a 10-month layoff to win a first-level allowance race on the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup undercard, then was freshened for the Malibu.