Making Money in the Malibu by Caleb @CalebWVU

If you’re looking for something to cure your hangover, get your mind off of yesterday’s fight with the in-laws, or take a breather from assembling children’s toys, Santa Anita has a fantastic opening day card headlined by the Grade 1 Malibu. This race appears extremely difficult to find value in from a betting perspective, as it looks like a match race on paper between crack sprinter Nashville and springtime superstar Charlatan. Both horses are likely to be incredibly short prices, so we have to get a little creative to find value. 

Nashville is the “now” horse who has recorded monstrous timeformUS speed figures in his three starts and hardly worked up a sweat while doing it. Charlatan, once thought to be Bob Baffert’s most promising three-year-old, makes his first start off of an extended layoff due to injury. While I have a ton of respect for Nashville, I will be keying most of my plays around Charlatan. Nashville very well may be the next Mitole, but I’m not willing to take 6/5 on a horse who has never raced in a graded stakes race, never faced pace pressure, never ran beyond six furlongs, and never shipped west. While Nashville has trounced every field he’s faced, he’s beaten some dreadful fields that would struggle to win n1x allowance races. I have to wonder why connections elected to skip the Breeder’s Cup in favor of the Perryville if Nashville was truly as good as billed, especially given Yaupon’s no-show in that race. That doesn’t inspire confidence today. 

Now let’s talk about Charlatan. He ran races equally as fast as Nashville way back in March, and it is very reasonable to expect improvement and maturation from March to December for developing three-year-olds. He also is proven at longer distances, as seven furlongs is a notoriously difficult distance for horses stretching out. I don’t expect a pace meltdown here, as Baffert horses are almost never one-dimensional speedballs. I think we’ll see tactics very similar to Gamine and Serengeti Empress here, with Charlatan sitting just off the pace and making his move into the turn. The layoff would be more concerning if not for the Baffert factor, but I’m not going against Charlatan in Bobby’s own backyard. 

Others may make a case for a closer such as Independence Hall or Collusion Illusion, but I simply don’t think either are fast enough to outright win. Of those two, I’d give the nod to Independence Hall, who looked fantastic in his return last out. However, he is still much slower than the big two, and even keying him in second in an exacta is unlikely to provide great returns.

My approach will be to play a double in Races 10-11 keying Charlatan with On Mars and Warren’s Showtime. There’s almost nothing to knock about Warren’s Showtime, as she loves Santa Anita and is a win machine. Her record looks even better if you toss some of the dirt races. On Mars is a juicy 6/1 on the morning line, although I’m unsure we get that price. On Mars is a standout on thorograph figures, showing improvement in each of her last three starts. Don’t be fooled by the perceived class hike here, as she was beating older horses in open company last out and now drops into three-year-old restricted company where most of the field is still eligible for n1x races. While she took a while to figure things out, she appears to be in career form now.

The play: $25 DD 4 / 4,9

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