First Look: 6 Santa Anita opening-day stakes, 1 Derby prep

First Look: 6 Santa Anita opening-day stakes, 1 Derby prep
Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

Santa Anita will draw Monday for the six graded stakes on the card for Sunday, the opening day of the track's winter/spring meet.

The lineup includes three Grade 1 events – the Malibu, La Brea and American Oaks – plus the San Antonio (G2) slated to feature Hot Rod Charlie, the Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) on turf and the $200,000 San Gabriel (G2) on grass.

The day after Christmas also brings the first race on Fair Grounds' expanded Road to the Kentucky Derby with the Gun Runner Stakes, which offers 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers.

Here is an early look at the expected fields.

Santa Anita

$300,000 Malibu Stakes (G1), 7 furlongs, 3-year-olds

A fascinating matchup is shaping up with the likes of Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Dr. Schivel, emerging star Flightline and possibly the ascendant Triple Tap for Bob Baffert, who is a half brother to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Dr. Schivel will look to lock up the Eclipse Award as outstanding sprinter with a win for trainer Mark Glatt and owner Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal. Flightline has been brilliant in two starts for trainer John Sadler, but will be getting a major class test. Triple Tap is listed as possible, as owner Summer Wind Equine is also a part owner of Flightline and the connections may decide to keep them apart.

Baby Yoda is already at Santa Anita for trainer Bill Mott. Since an ultra-fast allowance win at Saratoga this summer, the Prospective gelding was a well-beaten third in the Vosburgh (G2) and a disappointing seventh as the odds-on favorite in the Nov. 22 Steele Valley Sprint at Mahoning Valley.

2021 Malibu (G1)

$300,000 La Brea Stakes (G1), 7 furlongs, 3-year-old fillies

Baffert is eyeing the race with multiple fillies, but the most likely to run is Private Mission, who will be cutting back in distance after a trio of route races. She most recently set blistering fractions in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff before fading to last. Prior to that, she won both the Zenyatta (G2) and Torrey Pines (G3).

Livingmybestlife is an emergent filly for Sadler who sports a record of 7: 4-2-0. Most recently she has tallied a pair of minor stakes wins that each earned competitive speed figures.

2021 La Brea (G1)

$300,000 American Oaks (G1), 1 1/4 miles (turf), 3-year-old fillies

This is on track to feature an intriguing East-West rematch between multiple graded-stakes winner Fluffy Socks for trainer Chad Brown and locally-based Grade 1 winner Going Global, a winner of 6-of-7 this year for trainer Phil D’Amato.

This will be the second trip west for Fluffy Socks, who most recently rallied to win the Sands Point (G2) at Belmont Park. In August, Fluffy Socks and Going Global tangled in the Del Mar Oaks (G1) with Going Global beating her rival by 1 3/4-lengths when getting the win.

2021 American Oaks (G1)

$300,000 San Antonio (G2), 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds and older

Hot Rod Charlie will look to add to his standout campaign in this spot. Trainer Doug O’Neill has designed this start to act as a bridge towards Hot Rod Charlie’s main early season goal, the rich Dubai World Cup on March 26. Express Train returns after having to be scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In last year’s San Antonio, the 4-year-old Union Rags colt was beaten just a half length when second to Idol.

2021 San Antonio Stakes (G2)

$200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2), 1 mile (turf), 3-year-olds

Beyond Brilliant has found a home on the turf for trainer John Shirreffs. He blitzed a field of allowance foes on the front-end at Del Mar this summer and, after a close-up third in the Twilight Derby (G2), took down the Hollywood Derby (G2) at Del Mar most recently.

Flashiest won the Oceanside at Del Mar this summer and None Above the Law took the Del Mar Derby (G2).

Du Juor is back with Bob Baffert after spending the middle of the season back east with trainer Bill Mott. He most recently was eighth in the Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs.

2021 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2)

$200,000 San Gabriel Stakes (G2), 1 1/8 miles (turf), 3-year-olds and older

Astronaut won the Del Mar Handicap (G2) in August and came back to be off the board in both the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) for Shirreffs.

Hit the Road returns after having to be scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Prior to that, he was beaten just a half-length by Mo Forza in the City of Hope (G2) at Santa Anita.

Friar’s Road has been knocking on the door of a graded-stakes win having been beaten just a head by United in the John Henry Turf Championship and then finishing a close-up third in the Hollywood Turf Cup.

2021 San Gabriel Stakes (G2)

Fair Grounds

$100,000 Gun Runner (listed), 1 1/16 miles, 2-year-olds

Recent maiden winners Epicenter for trainer Steve Asmussen and Rocket Dawg for Brad Cox figure to draw plenty of attention from horseplayers. Epicenter attended a sharp pace and drew clear late when graduating going a mile at Churchill Downs in his second start on Nov. 13. Rocket Dawg, a $375,000 auction purchase as a yearling, debuted going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs on Nov. 19 and aired by 5 1/2 lengths.

2021 Gun Runner (LS)

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