It is Malibu Stakes Day at Santa Anita Park on Saturday in California. This is one of the most highly anticipated races since the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It might be for only $300,000, but the return of Charlatan and the presence of Nashville in the Malibu Stakes makes this a must-watch event on Saturday. I’m looking forward to seeing what Independence Hall can do from the outside as well. Christmas has no racing, but the action heats up again the following day. Christmas Eve was a profitable effort at Tampa Bay Downs. A perfect three for three days sets up what is hopefully another profitable day on Saturday.
Along with the Malibu Stakes, there are two other $300,000 Grade 1 stakes events at Santa Anita park. There are 11 races with a total of $1,621,000 in prize money available on Saturday. Let’s try to do some damage with three single bets. We have more stakes picks for Saturday at Laurel Park as well. Head below for our free Santa Anita Park picks for December 26, 2020.
Race 4 – Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes
Post Time: 12:36 p.m. PST
The $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes (Gr. 2) is the first intriguing race on the docket at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. This mile race features seven horses on turf, with a familiar face running. Actually, Storm the Court, Field Pass, and Smooth Like Straight are all familiar, but Smooth Like Straight was one leg of my Pick 5 win at Churchill Downs in the spring. That was a monster payday when Smooth Like Strait was largely ignored and caught a nice price. Smooth Like Strait is no longer a secret. He will likely be joined by Field Pass in the stretch.
Field Pass will have a say for a win in this $200,000 event with Smooth Like Strait. Field Pass has finished 6 for 15 in his career and is coming off a nice win in the $125,000 Ontario Stakes (Gr. 3) over Belichick by 1 length. After winning the $100,000 Kentucky Utilities Transylvania Stakes (Gr. 3) on July 13 over Street Ready by a nose, Field Pass went winless in three straight races before striking at Woodbine in the Ontario Derby. Field Pass has failed to win a Grade 2 race yet, but could strike here.
Smooth Like Strait won for me at Churchill Downs on May 23 in the $100,000 War Chant Stakes. Field Pass showed 3rd in that race. Smooth Like Strait was 5/1 on the morning-line for great value. Since then, Smooth Like Strait has finished 1st, 4th, 1st, 2nd. In his most recent win, he topped Scarto by 1 ½ lengths in the $200,000 Twilight Derby on October 18. Smooth Like Strait followed up on November 29 at Del Mar to place 2nd behind Domestic Spending by a head in the $300,000 Hollywood Derby (Gr. 1). This looks like a winnable assignment for Smooth Like Strait.
Race 9 – American Oaks
Post Time: 3:17 p.m. PST
Distance:1 ¼ Miles
Race 9 is the American Oaks (Gr. 1) at Santa Anita Park. This even covers 1 ¼ miles on the downhill turf for a $300,000 purse. The downhill turf is unique to Santa Anita Park in the US. Sharing is another horse that paid off for me on the Pick 5 in the spring at Churchill Downs. She will likely be battling with Duopoly in the stretch for the win. Duopoly is 3 for 5 and has a win in three of his previous four entries.
She is coming off her first stakes win on November 15 with a win in the $100,000 Winter Memories on November 15. That was much easier than her previous assignment in the $150,000 Pin Oak Valley View Stakes (Gr. 3). That was her first graded event, and will be running in her second graded race on Saturday in the American Oaks (Gr. 1). This will be her first Grade 1 experience. Sharing should prove to be a tough challenge on Saturday.
Sharing is 5 for 8 in her career. Since winning on May 23 in the $100,000 Tepin Stakes, Sharing has gone 2nd, 1st, 4th in two Grade 1 races and one Grade 2 race. She won the $300,000 Edgewood Stakes (Gr. 2) over Hendy Woods by 1 ¼ lengths for a win. The $300,000 Matriarch Stakes (Gr. 1) on November 29 was too tough, but I think this race suits her well. Expect ther $350,000 Sharing, who has five wins in her past three outings to cash in.
Race 10 – Malibu Stakes
Post Time: 3:51 p.m. PST
Race 10 is the feature event of the weekend and should be a thriller. Bob Baffert’s Charlatan will return for the $300,000 Malibu Stakes on Saturday. Charlatan was expected to run in the Kentucky Derby and beyond, possibly the Breeders’ Cup Classic as well, but an injury upended him. He was a perfect two for two in easy wins on February 16 and March 14 at Santa Anita Park. Charlatan won by 5 ¾ lengths in his debut in a $55,000 event, and then followed up for a blowout by 10 ¼ lengths in a $57,000 event.
Charlatan got injured in his first real test in the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (Gr. 1) on May 2. To make matters even worse, Charlatan was disqualified after Baffert was caught doping. That took away a 6 length win for Charlatan over Basin. It was not a major doping scandal, and the substance may not have helped him out a whole lot, but I assume we will find out what a clean Charlatan can do on Saturday. The $700,000 Charlatan has been in nice form in the morning. He is coming off a 59.80-second workout at 5 furlongs on December 19.
The long layoff is a concern, though. He will have to tame a monster in Nashville to get to the winner’s circle. Nashville looks like one heck of a horse, and has the talent to steal the show in the Malibu Stakes. He is a perfect three for three in his career, and coming off an easy win in the $125,000 Perryville Stakes (Black Type) on November 7.
It was a wire-to-wire win for Nashville, as he was geared down in the stretch or it could have been a bigger win than 3 ½ lengths. His form in recent workouts has been terrific, with a time of 59.20 seconds and 58.80 seconds at 5 furlongs. The public will likely support Charlatan going into this race, so there might be some better value than 6/5 by post time on Nashville. Independence Hall will likely threaten from the outside as well, but I think Nashville is a beast of a horse and should win this. Big things are in his future in 2021.