12/23/2013 2:52PM

Santa Anita: Malibu field filled with speed, talent

Shigeki Kikkawa
Distinctiv Passion needs to harness his speed to win the seven-furlong Malibu.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Seven furlongs is an awkward distance that is too far for some and too short for others. For speedster Distinctiv Passion, the final furlong of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes will be a challenge.

“Seven furlongs might be a mile and a quarter to him,” trainer Jeff Bonde admits. “I just know he likes that track, and he is hard to slow down.”

There will be no slowdown Thursday, when Distinctiv Passion will try to wire a field of 3-year-olds in the seven-furlong Malibu. The $300,000 race is the traditional opening-day feature at Santa Anita, which in 2014 will be anything but traditional.

[Santa Anita opening day: Get PPs, watch Thursday's card live]

Santa Anita will stay open for six months until late June, filling a gap left by Hollywood Park’s closure. Change is happening in California, and by the time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle returns early in the year, the sprint division will be a lot deeper.

The 12-horse Malibu sets the tone, with sprinters, routers, and shippers. And though Flashback will be among the favorites, trainer Bob Baffert is already looking forward to Jan. 18 when Flashback stretches out for the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Strub.

“He’s going to be so much better going two turns,” Baffert said. “Last year, he wanted to get a little bit rank and wanted to get it on. This year, he is very, very relaxed.”

Flashback was sidelined with a knee chip after finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby. Flashback has two wins and three seconds from five starts and is one of three Baffert starters in the field. His others, Shakin It Up and Zee Bros, return from layoffs of six months or more.

In his Nov. 2 comeback, Flashback finished second behind Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Zeewat in the Damascus at Santa Anita. Those two meet again in the Malibu, and both are likely to be flattered by a fast pace. Along with Distinctiv Passion, front-runners include Heir of Storm, Zee Bros, and Bakken.

“There is plenty of speed in there,” Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward said.

He said that 6-for-11 Zeewat is training better now than before the Damascus. Zeewat galloped Monday at Hollywood and was scheduled to ship Monday to Santa Anita.

While the Malibu appears to set up for Flashback and Zeewat, they can only win if Distinctiv Passion is unable to stay seven furlongs. Bonde recognizes the challenge, but hopes Distinctiv Passion is learning to ration his speed.

“This will be a test,” he said. “We worked hard getting him to relax.”

Distinctiv Passion ran off in his most recent start Oct. 5, finishing third after setting the fastest half-mile of the fall meet, a wicked 43.69-second half in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship.

Distinctiv Passion must use moderation Thursday to survive seven furlongs. If he cannot, Bonde can shorten him up. Bonde also trains Grade 3 winner Majestic Stride, giving him two of the circuit’s top sprinters. Distinctiv Passion is 2 for 3 at Santa Anita, and 4 of 9 overall.

The top shipper is Bakken, who is 2 for 2, with both races having come in New York. Although a Grade 1 seems ambitious for a first-level allowance winner, trainer Chad Brown believes Bakken is more than ordinary.

“We thought he was one of our best 2-year-olds, if not our best,” Brown said.

The colt’s juvenile campaign never got off the ground.

“He had a couple of different issues,” Brown said without being specific.

Bakken finally made his career debut as a 3-year-old Oct. 13 at Belmont, winning wire to wire by more than six, followed by another front-running win Nov. 23 at Aqueduct. Brown is confident Bakken does not require the lead.

“I’d be surprised if he wasn’t able to rate,” Brown said. “He drew a good post [10], near the outside.”

Heir of Storm did not draw well, post 3, but there is no doubt he has improved. Purchased privately in fall and transferred to trainer Peter Miller, Heir of Storm crushed a first-level allowance Nov. 1 by more than four lengths. The odds were crazy – he returned $77.60.

“It was either the dirt, or blinkers, or both,” Miller said. “If you go strictly on sheets and Beyers, he’s one of the favorites. He’s as fast as anyone in the race. He doesn’t need the lead. I expect to be sitting second or third, and get first run.”

Lightly raced Demonic is using the Malibu as a prep race for the Strub. The others in the field are Syndicated, Central Banker, Holy Lute, and Our Double Play.

Only one favorite has won the Malibu since 1996 – The Factor in 2011. The Malibu is race 8 on a nine-race card.

Hail No More than 1 year ago
So BB make's chalk eating weasels whiff badly, and yet still wins at 17-1..Flashback ran another top in his previous race, after 6 month layoff, and Shaking it Up runs a top after a 9 month layoff. Doe's anyone think he had a big bet? This is like an episode of Luck, what a game :-)
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Wow, just looked at pp's (free!) you can make a case for almost every horse, flashback, captain obvious horse, 7-5, never see 7-2, he's obviously the "now" horse, people will gush over his 90plus buyers and Bobby Baffler, would love to see Syndicated do well, Our Double Play could have a say, too.. Good luck all and let's hope SA is around for another 78years..
michael More than 1 year ago
More bad news for racing. Strub now 1 1/16.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Course Correction I am going to put a win bet on Central Banker
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Good luck Rahman.. I don't know if he'll be 6-1 but I like him, too. Love the 2yo form, then first race back at 3yo, on turf, across country, could be any kind. I'm also looking at bombs, 1 or 2 horse might be good anchors in exotics, good luck..and rest easy, I have the crown for most negs, haha!! :-)
Hail No More than 1 year ago
We get 10-1 on CB and SIU nails on wire, ex should be juicy :-)
Hail No More than 1 year ago
357.80 not bad..
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Hail No!!! No pun intended.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Keep CB on stable alert, that is a game horse!
Hail No More than 1 year ago
PS, Rahman, I really hope you had the tri, you liked Zeewat, I see down below and CB, way to go, dude, I salute you on the Malibu..
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately I don't play tris that much maybe derby or Breeders. My buddy is already needling me about it.Lol. CB I like a lot will look for him next time out wish he would stay here probably going to race one more time before running in Churchill downs on Derby day. What do you think? Battled is also a pretty game horse to bad Baffert is going to throw him in a grade one, I'm close to throwing in my fan card. Seems like he losing all patience
AzPokerPlayer More than 1 year ago
This will be my first year in 20yrs I'm not going to SA on opening day...I have tried to continue to support this sport each year after watching year after year the unbelievable mismanaged people in charge destroying this game and I can't do it any longer, I'm done...Hollywood Park being closed was the last straw for me..I have started a new hobby in poker where I get free admission, free parking, half off good & drinks, treated like a king where I play...how ironic, horse racing used to be called the sport of kings...key word USED to be:(
John Boudreau More than 1 year ago
Can't Wait for the Mdn. 20 Opener>>>of the Big Meet>> What a Joke
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
For us on the East- Coast we know Bakken is the real deal . He should love the track ( always hopeful with shipping ) But talent wise he fit - is logical step BOL
Perl More than 1 year ago
Good luck. The horse is 6-1, parked outside in a race with plenty of speed. His two wins were basically public workouts and now he jumps up to a G1 caliber field on the west coast and stretches out. He's going to get his doors blown off.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Who wins perl?
Perl More than 1 year ago
Flashback is definitely in the exacta with either Holy Lute, Demonic, or Shakin It Up.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Ouch, the writer whiffs badly :)
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Agree. I like Central Banker a lot better more experience. Santa Anita darling will probably win it at this distance 5 or 11. If the race was much longer I would like the shippers a little more. I believe less of a home track advantage longer the race, look at the classic. Central Banker with Talamo at 6-1 I like it. Might be throwing my money away but hey. Take care
Bruce Eckhoff More than 1 year ago
There is some serious speed here and some good mid-pack horses. Tough race. But don't forget Demonic, the only horse to beat Tiz the Truth at Santa Anita I think. If the race falls apart he could be the surprise, and Corey is riding great right now. Best to all on opening day.
Mark More than 1 year ago
10/4,7,11 Exactas 4,7,11/10 smaller Win and place Bakken
Mark More than 1 year ago
Substituted demonic for distinctive passion in exCtas
Hail No More than 1 year ago
What, no ragz, Mark? Interesting this time of year, good luck!
noocheroni More than 1 year ago
this race is for the jocks, best trip wins: V. Espinoza my pick