Jon White: Santa Anita Monday Stakes Selections

Picturesque Santa Anita Park, where Thoroughbreds compete in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains, presents an excellent 11-race card this Monday to kick off its long winter-spring meeting.

Six graded stakes races will be contested Monday.

The trio of Grade I races highlighting Monday’s card are the Runhappy Malibu Stakes, La Brea Stakes and American Oaks.

Monday’s three Grade II races are the Santa Anita Mathis Mile, San Gabriel Stakes and San Antonio Stakes.

First run in 1952, the Malibu has been won by such outstanding equine athletes as Round Table (1957), Native Diver (1962), Buckpasser (1966), Damascus (1968), Ancient Title (1974), Spectacular Bid (1980), Precisionist (1984), Ferdinand (1986) and Shared Belief (2014).

Runhappy won the 2015 Malibu and was voted a 2015 Eclipse Award as champion male sprinter.

More recent editions have been won by such quality runners as Mind Your Biscuits (2016), City of Light (2017), McKinzie (2018), Omaha Beach (2019) and Charlatan (2020).

A superstar by the name of Flightline won last year’s Malibu.

I installed Flightline as a 4-5 morning-line favorite in the 2021 Malibu. He was sent off at 2-5 and made that short price look like an absolute gift, winning off by 11 1/2 lengths.

Flightline’s scintillating Malibu victory occupied the top spot on my list of the best performances by a Thoroughbred in this country during 2021.

It turned out that Flightline’s Malibu served as a huge hint of what he would go on to do this year. The Tapit colt registered three sensational wins in three starts.

Making his 2022 debut in the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont Park on June 11, Flightline prevailed by six emphatic lengths despite a slow start and early adversity. Next, in a Secretariat-like performance, he won Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic on Sept. 3 by a block, or more specifically by a record 19 1 1/4 lengths. And then, in his farewell appearance under silks, the 4-year-old superstar won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic by a record 8 1/4 lengths at Keeneland on Nov. 5.

Flightline ended his all-too-brief and superlative-filled racing career with six victories from six starts by a combined 71 lengths. In his six races, we saw six exhibitions of sheer poetry in motion. All six times it was a tour de force. He is No. 1 on my list of the Top 100 racehorses to have won in North America during the 21st century so far. The Top 10 of that list is below:

   1. Flightline
   2. American Pharoah*
   3. Zenyatta
   4. Arrogate
   5. Ghostzapper
   6. Curlin
   7. Rachel Alexandra
   8. Justify*
   9. Shared Belief
 10. California Chrome

*Triple Crown winner

I have pegged Taiba as the morning-line favorite in this year’s Malibu. The field of nine, from the rail out, is comprised of Forbidden Kingdom (5-2), Messier (6-1), Apprehend (8-1), Nakatomi (10-1), Hoist the Gold (12-1), Taiba (6-5), Perfect Flight (12-1), Strava (15-1) and Straight No Chaser (20-1).

Below are my picks for all six graded stakes races on Santa Anita’s opening-day program:


No. 1 BALNIKHOV (2-1 on the morning line)
Big win in Keeneland’s Bryan Station

No. 3 I’M A GAMBLER (5-2)
Highly regarded European import

No. 7 SUMTER (3-1)
Dual stakes winner this grass course

No. 6 HANDY DANDY (5-1)
Ran 4th in Hollywood Derby; dangerous


Comes off sharp effort at Del Mar

No. 6 PRINCE ABAMA (5-2)
Shorter trip after 1 1/2-mile Turf Cup win

No. 3 DICEY MO CHARA (3-1)
Finished 4th as chalk to Prince Abama

No. 5 BOB AND JACKIE (6-1)
Last win in this race a year ago


Class of field but does prefer longer

Won Grade III race on this oval Oct. 2

Has won 3 of last 4, gets class hike

No. 2 STILLETO BOY (5-1)
Now fresh after seeming to tail off


Merits top billing off Zenyatta score

She’s 1 for 1 at this distance

No 3 GANADORA (4-1)
Million-dollar filly has won 3 of 4

No. 6 FUN TO DREAM (5-1)
Cal-bred Arrogate filly has a shot


No. 6 TAIBA (6-5)
Formidable with five triple-digit Beyers

Finished 3rd in salty Del Mar sprint

No. 2 MESSIER (6-1)
Bled when 4-5 at Kee; sharp recent drills

No. 3 APPREHEND (8-1)
Posted 107 Beyer on this track Oct. 8


No. 9 SALIMAH (7-2)
NY shipper gets nod in wide-open race

No. 6 MISS EN SCENE (4-1)
Split field in BC Filly & Mare Turf

Snazzy Del Mar score but loses Prat

No. 7 SKIMS (6-1)
Frankel miss won Grade II in NY


When Flightline won the 2021 Malibu, he completed seven furlongs in a terrific 1:21.37. His 118 Beyer smashed the record for the highest Malibu figure going back to 1991, which was the first year Beyers were listed in the American Racing Manual.

Flightline would go on to record Beyers of 112 in the Met Mile, 126 in the Pacific Classic and 121 in the BC Classic.

Below are the Beyers for winners of the Malibu going back to 1991:

2021 Flightline (118)
2020 Charlatan (107)
2019 Omaha Beach (101)
2018 McKinzie (103)
2017 City of Light (102)
2016 Mind Your Biscuits (107)
2015 Runhappy (102)
2014 Shared Belief (99)
2013 Shakin It Up (106)
2012 Jimmy Creed (105)
2011 The Factor (106)
2010 Twirling Candy (108)
2009 M One Rifle (102)*
2008 Bob Black Jack (108)*
2007 Johnny Eves (94)*
2006 Latent Heat (109)
2005 Proud Tower Too (105)
2004 Rock Hard Ten (100)
2003 Southern Image (108)
2002 Debonair Joe (95)
2001 Mizzen Mast (106)
2000 Dixie Union (104)
1999 Love That Red (102)
1998 Run Man Run (107)
1997 Lord Grillo (110)
1996 King of the Heap (99)
1995 Afternoon Deelites (103)
1994 Powis Castle (113)
1993 Diazo (104)
1992 Star of the Crop (104)
1991 Olympio (112)

*Run on a synthetic surface


In a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming affair at Keeneland on Nov. 4, Giant Mischief and Arabian Lion put on quite a show.

Giant Mischief, trained by Brad Cox, won by three-quarters of a length over Arabian Lion, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. There was a huge gap of 17 1/2 lengths back to Old Alliance in third.

Last Saturday, Arabian Lion was sent off as a 2-5 favorite in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity, while Giant Mischief was a 4-5 favorite in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park. They both lost.

Not only did Arabian Lion get beat in the 1 1/16-mile Los Al Futurity, he finished last in the field of five. Practical Move, ridden by Ramon Vazquez, lurked in third early, responded in the lane and won by 3 3/4 lengths. The Kentucky-bred Practical Joke colt posted a final time of 1:41.65 and was credited with an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.

Tim Yakteen trains Practical Move, who had never crossed the finish line in front before the Los Alamitos Futurity.

Practical Move earned his maiden diploma via DQ on Oct. 10 at Santa Anita. Fort Bragg finished first in that race, but he was disqualified and placed second for causing interference. Fort Bragg then won a Nov. 4 maiden race at Santa Anita before finishing third in the Los Al Futurity.

Even though Giant Mischief didn’t win the Springboard Mile, he ran a big race in defeat. He trailed early after a poor start, passed rivals with a rush on the far turn, but had to settle for second when unable to overhaul Wildatlanticstorm in the final sixteenth.

Leandro Goncalves rode Wildatlanticstorm for trainer Ray Ashford Jr.

Wildatlanticstorm, who sat just off the early pace in the field of 12, won by 1 1/4 lengths and completed one mile in 1:38.24. He recorded a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. This made it back-to-back stakes victories for Wildatlanticstorm, an Iowa-bred Stormy Atlantic colt who went into the Springboard Mile off a nose win in Remington’s Clever Trevor Stakes on a sloppy track.

Arabian Lion was No. 3 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 last week. He slips to No. 8 this week.

Giant Mischief, by running as well as he did in spite of the poor start, moves up a notch to No. 5 this week.

Echo Again exits my Top 10 this week after being No. 8 last week. He weakened in the stretch and finished third in the Springboard Mile after setting the early pace.

Signator, who was No. 10 last week, also exits my Top 10 this week.

Wildatlanticstorm debuts on my Top 10 this week at No. 9.

Practical Move debuts this week at No. 10.

Below is my Kentucky Derby Top 10 for this week:

 1. Arabian Knight
 2. Forte
 3. Cave Rock
 4. Loggins
 5. Giant Mischief
 6. National Treasure
 7. Instand Coffee
 8. Arabian Lion
 9. Wildatlanticstorm
10. Practical Move


Equibase’s Ken Davis passed along the sad news this week that Esther Hall recently passed away.

Esther was my call-taker when I was the Daily Racing Form chart-caller at the tracks on the Southern California circuit from 1986 until closing day at the 1993 Del Mar summer meet. I left the DRF after that meet to begin working as a television broadcaster at Santa Anita.

What did Esther do as my call-taker? As I spit out horse names and margins as rapidly as an auctioneer, she took it all down on a pad, using the first letter of a horse’s name. If two horses in the race had a name beginning with the same letter, like Secretariat and Seattle Slew, Esther then needed to use a different letter or symbol for one of those two horses.

Esther took my call at two Breeders’ Cups, in 1986 at Santa Anita and 1987 at Hollywood Park.

Skywalker won the 1986 Classic. The following year, in a showdown between two Kentucky Derby winners, Ferdinand nosed out Alysheba in the Classic when the 1987 Horse of the Year title was on the line.

Born in Binghamton, NY., Esther graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

One memory we shared occurred during one of the tougher stretches on the Southern California racing calendar in those days, which was the 18 or 19 straight racing days of 11-race or 12-race cards in the heat and smog at Fairplex.

At Fairplex, I called charts in the press box, which was located at the top level of the grandstand, just above the back row for the pubic. Calling charts amid the roar of the crowd was challenging enough. But right before the first race one day something happened that was going to make it an even more difficult task.

“Esther, I’m going to do my best to call this chart, but it’s not gonna be easy,” I said.

She knew exactly what I was talking about. That’s because the two of us were practically being knocked over by the potent aroma of marijuana emanating from a joint being smoked by a fellow sitting right below us.

That chart did get called, though I’m not sure how. And as usual, Esther got what I had called all written down on her call pad.

continue reading