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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

Seeing Stars in the Malibu

The Malibu Stakes, run at Santa Anita, in December of every year, features some of the finest horses in California year after year. Last year was a thriller as Twirling Candy and Smiling Tiger traded punches all the way down the lane, with Twirling Candy throwing the final swipe that carried him past his opponent, in track record time. Over the years the Malibu’s list of winners has grown long with prestige, carrying the names of the ever so fleet Bob Black Jack, Damascus, Buckpasser, and the great Spectacular Bid, among others.

This year features quite a stand up field topped by Bob Baffert’s ,The Factor. At about this same time last year, the steely gray colt ran the competition off their feet, in a maiden race, while running six furlongs in a record 1.06.98. He followed that performance up with two more wins, this time in stakes company. With his win in the Rebel Stakes, many regarded him as a legitimate threat heading to the Kentucky Derby. Those plans were derailed when he displaced his pallet in the Arkansas Derby. He returned to the track with an impressive win in the Pat O’Brien Stakes, but since then has run in his last two starts. We all know The Factor at his best would handle this field, but as of late, it seems that there is no telling which side of him will show up.

Baffert has another bullet ready to load up and fire if his first stringer doesn’t, and that would be Smash. The son of Smart Strike is not nearly as accomplished as his stablemate, but he will not be overlooked in this race, not after that impressive allowance of his, last out. His sire, Smart Strike, has proven to be one over versatility. He can sire turf runners, classic runners, or sprinters, and another thing he is known for is the consistent quality he produces. Smash has the breeding, he has the talent, and he has one of the best conditioners training him for this. It would not be a surprise to see him take control in this race.

Comma to the Top, oh what memories he brings back. As a two year old he ran an unbelievable 10 times. This year he was on the Kentucky Derby trail, but the distance of 10 furlongs proved beyond him as he finish 19th. After that it took him nearly seven months to return to the scene. Unfortunately his the rust showed in his return, but in his second go around he returned to the top. He will step back into stakes again, but by judging his last effort he looks like he could be ready to put his best hoof forward.

Lastly, shipping in from the east, are a couple of talented Steve Asmussen trainees, Rothko and Wine Police. Wine Police impressed a lot of people with a sharp maiden debut and a close third in the Hopeful Stakes. He returned at Churchill Downs with an impressive victory, but hasn’t won since. The son of Speightstown has only been worse than third once, but will that be enough against this field?

Rothko, a son of Arch, is coming into this race riding a 3 race winning streak. He has yet to make the jump into stakes company, but judging from his past two wins, he looks like he just might be able to make the hike. In his last two runs he won for fun, romping away. While the hike from allowance company to stakes company will not be an easy test to answer, Rothko may just have the talent to accomplish such a task.

These are your big wigs heading into next weekend’s Malibu Stakes. Who do you think stands out and above the rest? Which do you think can pull of the big performance? Will the The Factor rebound, will Smash stomp his foes, is Comma to the Top ready to return to the top, will Wine Police step up, or will Rothko prove to be as good as he has looked against the best? You decide.


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Older Comments about Seeing Stars in the Malibu...

dead heat that didn't have to be his best race, the point was he felt the effects of a heated match thats what caused him to drop later. oh yes he did roll!
The Factor just rolled!! That is the horse to watch this spring! derbydeals.com
Greg, I honestly don't think it was that race. ST is not at his best at DelMar and his record shows that. Was it tough, yes, but ST was the only real threat to him and not even on his favorite track. That race also showed how one dimensional he is, again, and as i said that will get him in a load of trouble.
you missed a key point to that fall dead heat. remember he went toe to toe defeating smiling tiger and even though he put tiger away, the effect of that race took it's toll. little things like that matter. a horse clunks a few he is no good in the eyes of many. i thought he would fall to amazomibe at sa after the battle with the tiger. this time there is no shackleford or smiling tiger this should favor in his chances.
Greg, that may be but he got burned out on Santa Anita going only six furlongs. That would be my reason to be hesitant. It was a torrid pace, however, the field outside of him and Amazombie was frairly weak. That one dimensional speed got him through a lot of things early this year, but now it's getting him into trouble.
factor should come back, that breeder's cup day the track was anti speed most of the day.
If The Factor and Comma to the Top are in top form, then no one else stands a prayer of a chance despite their pedigree, and, let's admit it, this field is full of runners with impressive pedigrees.
Mike, I agree very much. If The Factor can return to form he'll be a tough one. Only thing is, this track seems a little less speed conductive, or it did, than it was last year, if the pace is too quick. Rothko should get the perfect stalking trip and if he is good enough should take over.
To me the opening of Santa Anita is the start of the racing year, and I am hoping 2012 is a lot better year than 2011. The Malibu looks like a pretty good race and I think Rothko has a big chance to win, but if The Factor runs like he did opening day last year he is the winner.

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred Racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2001. After that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at the now closed Virginia Intermont College, then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010 Laura came to Horse Racing Nation, but soon branched out to other media outlets, such as Lady and the Track, TwinSpires.com, and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter, while making a return to Horse Racing Nation, where she will once again feature her opinionated columns on the latest in horse racing. 

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