12/20/2013 2:54PM

Santa Anita: Stevens has live mounts for Malibu, La Brea

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Gary Stevens will ride Heir of Storm for the first time in the Malibu.

Last Christmas, Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens was two weeks away from a comeback and wondering whether he was capable of riding at his customary high level.

“I didn’t have any horses I knew I’d be riding,” he said earlier this week.

This year, Stevens, 50, approaches the holiday period with an enviable book of mounts for the last days of December and 2014. He rides Beholder, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 1, and Mucho Macho Man, who won the BC Classic on Nov. 2.

For Thursday’s opening day of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, Stevens has mounts on two of trainer Peter Miller’s 3-year-olds in Grade 1 races over seven furlongs – Heir of Storm in the $300,000 Malibu Stakes and Heir Kitty in the $300,000 La Brea Stakes for fillies.

Stevens will ride Heir of Storm and Heir Kitty for the first time Thursday. He has been aboard Heir Kitty for recent workouts.

“I’ve worked her a few times and I’ve liked what I’m seeing and feeling,” he said.

Stevens has won the Malibu twice and the La Brea four times in his career. Both of his mounts are part of deep fields befitting the purses and stature of the races.

The La Brea field is expected to include two fillies who were Grade 1 winners at Saratoga – Lighthouse Bay and Sweet Lulu.

Lighthouse Bay, trained by George Weaver, won the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes in July and was fifth behind Sweet Lulu in the Grade 1 Test Stakes in August. Sweet Lulu, trained in California by Jerry Hollendorfer, was later fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

The Malibu field is led by the Hollendorfer-trained Zeewat, who won the Damascus Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs on Nov. 2, edging Flashback by a head. Flashback, a candidate for the Malibu, was second in the Santa Anita Derby last April, but missed the Triple Crown because of injury.

Other probable starters for the Malibu are Bakken, Central Banker, Distinctiv Passion, Holy Lute, San Onofre, Shakin It Up, and Zee Bros.

The top turf race on Thursday’s opening-day program is the $200,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds over a mile. As of Friday, Stevens did not have a mount in a race led by No Jet Lag, winner of the Grade 2 City of Hope Stakes over a mile on turf against older horses in October. No Jet Lag was sixth of 10 in the BC Mile on Nov. 2.

Rookie Sensation, who won the Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita on Nov. 1, is being considered for the Sir Beaufort Stakes. Trained by John Shirreffs, Rookie Sensation was fifth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby over 1 1/4 miles on turf Dec. 1, leading to the eighth pole before fading.

Shirreffs said Thursday that he would wait until the last minute to decide whether to enter Rookie Sensation, who will be ridden by Victor Espinoza if he starts.