Mike Smith and Jim Cassidy have enjoyed considerable success together in the past, which could continue at Santa Anita opening day should Smith pilot Holy Lute
to an upset win for the veteran trainer in the Grade I Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.
Holy Lute worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Tuesday in 1:01. The gray son of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Midnight Lute has not raced since Nov. 1, when he finished 10th of 11 in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Two races prior, he won the El Cajon at Del Mar in August before finishing third in the Grade II Indiana Derby on Oct. 5.
“The Dirt Mile was a very eventful race for him,” Cassidy said, alluding to the four-wide trip in which he weakened and was beaten 17 lengths. “But he’s doing well now and we’re looking forward to this race. I think the seven furlong distance fits him well.”
As for Smith, to no one’s surprise, Cassidy had high praise for the Hall of Fame jockey.
“Besides being pleasant and easy to get along with, he unfolds a race early, he knows where he’s going, he knows what he’s doing and he gives you a good report when he gets back, win, lose or draw,” Cassidy said.
Told he’ll have to beat his buddy, faux nemesis Bob Baffert, who could have three starters in the Malibu including likely favorite Flashback, Cassidy smiled and said, “I’ve done that before.”
Should San Onofre
win the Malibu for Karen Headley, it would mark the first time a father and his daughter trainer captured the prestigious event. Karen’s dad, Bruce Headley, who bred San Onofre, won the 2009 Malibu with M One Rifle.
“He’s doing well,” Karen said of San Onofre, a gelded son of Surf Cat owned by Bruce’s wife and Karen’s mother, Aase, who campaigns as Matson Racing. San Onofre broke his maiden at Hollywood Park last out by 10 ½ lengths on Nov. 15.
“My father won the Malibu with a homebred,” Karen said, “so it would be nice to do it again and keep it in the family, so to speak.”
Probable for the Malibu: Bakken, no rider; Central Banker, Joe Talamo; Distinctiv Passion, Edwin Maldonado; Flashback, Joel Rosario; Heir of Storm, Gary Stevens; Holy Lute, Smith; San Onofre, no rider; Shakin It Up, no rider; Zee Bros, no rider; and Zeewat, Rafael Bejarano.