Homeracing

Malibu Stakes Could Produce Next Dirt Star

Profile Picture: D.S. Williamson

D.S. Williamson

December 22nd, 2018

Like every year, Santa Anita's Opening Day is on Dec. 26. For most people, the day after Christmas is exactly that. It's nothing more and nothing less. For horsepalyers, Dec. 26 is Christmas. It's the start of a new thoroughbred racing season, one that doesn't end until the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Santa Anita showcases plenty of talent in multiple graded races on Dec. 26 this year. The most important of which could be the Grade 1 Malibu at 7 furlongs. Check out 5 of the top players in this year's Malibu Stakes. One of the 5 horses listed here could turn into the top older horse on dirt in 2019.

Malibu Stakes Could Produce Next Dirt Star

McKinzie

There's no way to sugarcoat the 12th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic. But, he had excuses. It was only his second race since taking a long vacation after the San Felipe Stakes in March. The Bob Baffert trained son of Street Sense peaked in his first race off the bench, the Pennsylvania Derby. He simply bounced in his first race against older and first ever going 1 1/4 miles. In hindsight, we probably should have thrown him out in the BC Classic.

In any case, Baffert believes McKinzie could be a dominant player in the handicap division in 2019. It starts by winning the Malibu on Wednesday.

Copper Bullet

Derby buzz got intense after Copper Bullet won the Saratoga Special in August 2017 as a 2-year-old. Trainer Steve Asmussen had to put him on the bench until an allowance win about a month ago. He looked fantastic winning the allowance race. So much so, that Asmussen has him wheeling back in the Grade 1 Malibu. He could go off at overlay odds on Dec. 26. If you're not betting and just watching, make sure to see how he runs.

Asmussen trained Gun Runner to greatness after that one had a so-so 3-year-old year. So, the man knows how to turn okay 3-year-olds into monster older horses.

Kanthaka

Nero

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's always careful with his horses, which is why after Kanthaka finished 6th in the Bluegrass Stakes, he ran him in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera Stakes in May instead of the Kentucky Derby. Kanthaka's been on the bench since then. Who knows how good he could be on Wednesday? Hollendorfer's one of the best at getting them ready off the bench.

Nero's trained by Bob Baffert. That gives him a shot to upset the Malibu field. The lightly raced Pioneerof the Nile colt would have won the San Vicente if Kanthaka hadn't raced. Like Kanthaka, Nero won an allowance in November. He could improve enough off that to win the Malibu. Nero's bred to be a champion. It's not too difficult to see Baffert using the Malibu as Nero's springboard to older horse stardom.

Axelrod

Axelrod finished ahead of Pavel, Mind Your Biscuits, McKinzie, Catholic Boy, and Roaring Lion in the Breeders' Cup Classic. All those horses offered lower odds than he did. Trainer Mike McCarthy has turned into a top horseman while this son of Warrior's Reward gets John Velasquez to take the call. It will be interesting to see how he performs in the Malibu. A victory puts him right up there with the best on the west coast.

Even if you don't plan on wagering, make sure to watch the 2018 Malibu Stakes. The deep field could produce horse racing's next dirt star.
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