The final weekend of the 2015 major graded stakes horse racing season comes to a close this Saturday with a pair of big money sprint events at Santa Anita for three-year old thoroughbreds.
The first race of note on Saturday’s card at Santa Anita is the Malibu Stakes for three-year old males and the second is the La Brea Stakes for three-year old fillies. The following are a pair of my top sport picks for each of these exciting Grade 1 events as a solid exacta bet.
Malibu Stakes- Santa Anita Park
The Malibu Stakes is a Grade 1 event for three-year old thoroughbreds run on dirt over a distance of seven furlongs. The total prize purse for this race is $300,000.
The early betting list for this Saturday’s Malibu Stakes has seven horses entered in the field. At the top of my list with a Horse Racing Nation rating of 7.78 is Runhappy. This three-year old Kentucky bred colt earned that spot with his impressive victory in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland on Oct. 31. Trained by Laura Wohlers and ridden by veteran jockey Gary Stevens, this was his fifth-straight victory this season including three-straight first-place runs in a graded stakes race.
Before the stirring victory in the BC Sprint, Runhappy caught bettor’s attention with a victory in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga in late-August. He started his three-year old campaign with a win in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 17.
My second choice for this race would be El Kabeir. Trained by John Terranova and ridden by Mike Smith, this three-year old Florida bred colt also has a solid HRN rating of 7.43. He has recently been transferred to the stable of trainer Bob Baffert, but that could be a temporary situation to prepare for this race. The highlight of his three-year old resume that includes a total of six stakes races was a third-place finish behind Frosted and Tencendur in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 4. He has won three of the six races, while finishing in the money in two other events.
With 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled as part of his progeny, El Kabeir has shown himself to be a solid sprint horse over shorter distances while having the stamina to successfully compete in races longer than a mile.
La Brea Stakes- Santa Anita Park
The Grade 1 La Brea Stakes is also run on dirt over a distance of seven furlongs and the field is open to three-year old fillies. The total prize purse for this race has been set at $300,000.
The field for the La Brea Stakes is shaping-up to be a strong one with 10 fillies currently expected to run. While it is doubtful that Cavorting will open as the morning line favorite for Saturday’s race, she is my top pick to best this talented field. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Irad Ortiz, this three-year old Kentucky bred filly already has a strong duo in her corner. She Just missed out on finishing in the money in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint with a fourth-place run, but this followed a trio of victories in three previous stakes races including the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 6.
Over the course of her two-year racing career, Cavorting has finished in the money in five of eight events, but every one of those finishes was a victory. She appears to be very comfortable at this distance with two of her worst runs coming at a distance of a mile.
The favorite for Saturday’s La Brea Stakes should be Birdatthewire when the morning line odds are released. This three-year old Kentucky bred filly as a HRN rating of 7.97, which is the highest of any horse in the field. She is trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Mike Smith, which is another strong combination. This is a great horse, but the concern for Saturday has to be a string of three-straight finishes out of the money in her last three events including a fifth-place finish in this year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 1.
I still like her chances to pay off in an exacta wager with Cavorting as a strong filly at this distance. She won the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park at seven furlongs earlier in the season.