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Day After Christmas Present

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 12/20/2010 10:14:36 AM

There is something special about this edition of the Santa Anita meeting which opens on December 26. For the first time since Hollywood Park introduced a fall/winter meet, there is anticipation in the air about this particular stand because it will all be about the return of real dirt to racing in California.

And weather permitting, fans and bettors should be rewarded with one of the best meets ever.

The new dirt track may change the complexion of how races are won. If the rains don’t come and the track can stay glib, look for speed to be much more conducive to winning than it has in seasons past.

Millions in stakes cash will be offered this meet and there will be some new faces to ponder. More on that later.

The traditional opening day 3-year-old stakes, the Malibu, will kick off the stand and the race has been won by some legends over the decades.

I remember rushing out to the track for 2 sensational events. In 1980 I had to hop scotch through traffic to get to the oval in time to see Spectacular Bid beat Flying Paster under Bill Shoemaker. Bid seemed to look at Paster and the top of the lane and just scoff at him and draw away. And 6 years later to the day Shoemaker again was aboard as Ferdinand nailed Snow Chief on the wire in a thrilling win.

The Malibu is run at the demanding distance of 7 furlongs. Last year M One Rifle overcame a 3-race losing streak to set all the fractions posting a 103 winning Beyer.

This season, the runners to watch in the Malibu are Alcindor, Caracortado, Twirling Candy, Thomas Baines, Noble’s Promise and last but not least Setsuko.

It took this guy time to figure it out and he is a bit inexperienced but he’s in the good hands of Hall of Famer Dick Mandella, has worked forwardly for this race and should be coming hard in the final furlong.

All the usual suspects will be back for more action.

Rafael Bejarano and Joel Rosario are in a battle for leading rider at the current Hollywood Park meet both popping at 26% and they will again likely dominate the riding ranks.

Joe Talamo is maturing and riding more polished every afternoon as he tries to learn the tricks of the trade from pros like Pat Valenzuela and Victor Espinoza.

As far as trainers are concerned, the normal stalwarts will be there. We are talking, Doug O’Neill, Bob Baffert, Jerry Hollendorfer and John Sadler.

Look for a strong start from Bill Spawr. He only saddled 6 horses early at Hollywood over the fall meet and that suggests he will be loaded for bear as soon as they open the gates at Arcadia.

The big new gun among conditioners will be the stable of Steve Asmussen. Attempting to upgrade his outfit, Asmussen will have about 30 horses on the ground but he can always re-load with his strings around the country.

This will be the type of building meeting for the Asmussen youngsters to mature and develop into what they hope will be top notch sophomores this next year.

Asmussen, of course, is known for his brilliant work with double Horse of the Year in Curlin but he can come at your and succeed in a variety of ways.

Here’s hoping all have superior luck and a super 2011.

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