11/04/2011 12:36PM

Santa Anita: Malibu Pier aims to bounce back in Las Palmas

Benoit & Associates
Malibu Pier is the likely favorite for Sunday's Grade 2 Las Palmas Stakes at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Malibu Pier would be easy to support Sunday at Santa Anita, if trainer Carla Gaines had an alibi for the filly’s recent eighth-place finish.

“I don’t,” Gaines said. “I have no explanation.”

Malibu Pier finished eighth in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon, and plans were canceled for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

“Off that performance, we decided to keep her here instead of going to Kentucky,” Gaines said.

On Sunday at Santa Anita, Malibu Pier shortens to a mile and drops in class for the Grade 2 Las Palmas Stakes. The filly and mare turf race attracted a field of eight, including Grade 2 winner City to City, improving All Star Heart, and likely pacesetter Sarah’s Secret.

Although the Las Palmas is merely a Breeders’ Cup consolation, the $150,000 race carries repercussions for many, including Malibu Pier.

“If she runs well, then we’ll point for the Matriarch,” Gaines said, referring to the Grade 1 race Nov. 25 at Hollywood Park.

The handicapping dilemma Sunday surrounds Malibu Pier, a three-time graded stakes winner this year whose Yellow Ribbon was uncharacteristically dull.

“Maybe it was just one of those days,” Gaines said. “She’s had a couple really nice works since.”

Malibu Pier will be ridden by Joel Rosario, as regular rider Brice Blanc rides improving All Star Heart. Malibu Pier is a six-time winner of $457,200 from 13 starts and is expected to start favored, despite the disappointing effort last out.

All Star Heart has won four of her last six starts, including a sharp win one month ago in a restricted stakes for fillies and mares. Ron McAnally trains All Star Heart, who also will be considered for the Matriarch next month at Hollywood.

The pace scenario in the Las Palmas is soft, which favors Sarah’s Secret. Her comeback three weeks ago was a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Harold Ramser for 3-year-old turf fillies. Sarah’s Secret was expected to set the pace in the Ramser, but instead found herself off the pace and finished fifth.

Rafael Bejarano, who rode Sarah’s Secret to a front-running win in the Grade 3 Honeymoon in June at Hollywood Park, is reunited with the filly. Sarah’s Secret drew post 8 in the eight-horse field and is expected to use her speed in a race void of pace.

City to City won the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap two starts back and then finished seventh in the Yellow Ribbon.

Other starters in the Las Palmas include Ash Zee, Turning Top, Private Affair, and Anniversary Girl.