26th of December to Remember: Meet the Malibu Contenders

December 26 promises to be one of the most important days in the history of 1/ST Racing. It’s opening day of the Classic Meet at Santa Anita, opening day of the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park and host date of the Christmastide Day stakes card at Laurel Park. All month, 1/ST BET will prepare you for a 26th of December to Remember with special content.

Let’s meet the contenders for Monday’s Grade 1 $300,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

1-Forbidden Kingdom: Rail speed has made the lead in all 8 career starts and figures to be the one to catch in the Malibu.  Won the San Vicente at Santa Anita in January in his only local attempt at Monday’s 7-furlong distance. Top rider Juan Hernandez has been aboard in every outing for trainer Richard Mandella, who owns a record 6 Malibu victories.

2-Messier: Grade 3 Lewis winner over this track and Santa Anita Derby runner-up needs a wake-up call after a disastrous return to the races at Keeneland in allowance company on Breeders’ Cup Day. That was his only start since running 15th in the Kentucky Derby. Defeated Malibu rival Forbidden Kingdom over 7 furlongs in the Bob Hope at Del Mar more than 13 months ago.

3-Apprehend: Promising sprinter missed half of his sophomore season and has been inconsistent upon his return. Top-end talent witnessed in a mile allowance win at Santa Anita on October 8 that earned a massive 107 Beyer Speed figure. Should be perfectly suited for 7 furlongs and worth a look.

4-Nakatomi: Wesley Ward sends this one west from his Kentucky base off a Breeders’ Cup Day allowance win at Keeneland. Three of his 4 wins have come at Keeneland and the $25,000 sales buy has overachieved with $380K earned. This will be his longest race. Regular pilot Tyler Gaffalione travels to ride vs. staying home for opening day at Gulfstream’s Championship Meet.

5-Hoist the Gold: Another Kentucky-based raider, this one for Dallas Stewart, he’s expected to make a late run based on his past performances. Has competed primarily in listed stakes races and makes a big rise in class while settling for lesser awards in his last 8 starts. Joel Rosario is a good style fit in the saddle.

6-Taiba: Expected favorite was third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic during a meteoric season that saw him go from March 5 rookie to April 9 Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby winner. Only poor effort to date came in Kentucky Derby, but he’s acquitted himself well since then. Jockey Mike Smith is a 5-time Malibu winner, including 2018-’20 in succession.

7-Perfect Flight: Router has never sprinted in stakes company and has raced around 2 turns in his last 8 of 9 total career starts. Stablemate of Apprehend knocked off that one in the Zia Park Derby last time in a 1-2 finish. Won a route allowance in his only Santa Anita dirt effort to date.

8-Strava: Stablemate of Hoist the Gold looks for his first stakes win and races above the Grade 3 level for the first time. Son of top national sire Into Mischief, who was runner-up in this race in 2008. Strava comes off his best career effort, a sloppy-track allowance win around 1 turn at Churchill and picks up top pilot Flaiven Prat.

9-Straight No Chaser: Least experienced Malibu entrant has just 3 races on his resume and this will be his stakes debut. Has made the lead in all 3 starts and will contest the early going with Forbidden Kingdom, but will be one of the longest shots in the field.

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