Baffert gets top billing in GI’s with Taiba and Midnight Memories

December 22, 2022

Taiba winning the GI Santa Anita Derby in April. (Benoit Photos)

~ Taiba in the Grade I, $300,000 Runhappy Malibu; Midnight Memories in the Grade I, $300,000 La Brea
Special Early First Post Is At 11 A.M., Six Stakes On 11-Race Card

Mike Willman/Santa Anita Press Box

ARCADIA, Calif.—A winner of this year’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby, the Bob Baffert-trained Taiba heads a field of nine sophomores going seven furlongs in Santa Anita’s signature opening day feature Monday, the Grade I, $300,000 Runhappy Malibu Stakes.

Most recently third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing 8 ¾ lengths behind presumptive Horse of the Year Flightline, Taiba, who took the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby two starts back on Sept. 24, will be seeking to become the only 3-year-old colt or gelding to win three Grade I wins on the year and will thus try to make a late case for an Eclipse Award as top 3-year-old Male.

A $1.7 million purchase out of a 2-year-old in training sale in March of last year, Taiba is owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Inc. and will be ridden by Mike Smith, who has been aboard for his last five races, all of which have been around two turns.

A first-out winner here going six furlongs under John Velazquez on March 5, Taiba attended the early pace and won the Santa Anita Derby April 9 in only his second career start.

Baffert, who will also be sending out multiple graded stakes winner Messier, will be seeking his fifth win in the prestigious Malibu, which was taken last year by presumptive Horse of the Year Flightline.

A winner of both the Grade II San Vicente Stakes and the Grade II San Felipe here earlier this year, Richard Mandella’s Forbidden Kingdom was subsequently dispatched as the even money favorite in the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 9, but he went to the sidelines after finishing sixth and last.

Off at even money in his comeback race, the Grade II Santa Anita Sprint Championship Oct. 1, Forbidden Kingdom showed the way to the top of the lane but tired to finish fifth, beaten 3 ¾ lengths. Most recently third, beaten a half length in a six furlong allowance at Del Mar, Forbidden Kingdom will try to stop a three-game skid as he seeks his first Grade I win.

A chestnut colt by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Forbidden Kingdom is owned by MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm, LLC. Ridden by Juan Hernandez in all eight of his starts, he has three wins, a second and two thirds.

Trainer Wesley Ward looms dangerous in the Malibu with Kentucky shipper Nakatomi, who comes off a big allowance win going 6 ½ furlongs at Keeneland Nov. 5. A chestnut gelding by Firing Line, Nakatomi will be ridden back by Tyler Gaffalione. Owned by Bottle Rocket Stable, Qatar Racing Limited and Marc Detampel, Nakatomi, who is 8-4-1-1 overall, will be trying seven panels for the first time.

With Flavien Prat climbing aboard for the first time, the Dallas Stewart-trained Strava also rates a big chance on Monday shipping in from New Orleans. A big 6 ½ length allowance winner going a one-turn mile in the Churchill Downs slop Nov. 27, Strava, who was off the board in his only graded stakes try this year, earned a lofty 98 Beyer Speed Figure on Nov. 27 and looks to be a now commodity. 

Owned by WinStar Farm, LLC, Siena Farm, LLC and former two-time NCAA Division Champion and Hall of Fame basketball coach Denny Crum, Strava was a first-out winner going six furlongs at age two and is 9-3-1-3 overall.

The Grade I Runhappy Malibu With Jockeys & Weights In Post Position Order

Race 10 of 11   Approximate post time 3:30 p.m. PT

  1. Forbidden Kingdom—Juan Hernandez—122
  2. Messier—John Velazquez—122
  3. Apprehend—Ramon Vazquez—120
  4. Nakatomi—Tyler Gaffalione—120
  5. Hoist the Gold—Joel Rosario–120
  6. Taiba—Mike Smith—124
  7. Perfect Flight—Ricardo Santana, Jr.—120
  8. Strava—Flavien Prat—120
  9. Straight No Chaser—Edwin Maldonado—120 
Midnight Memories taking the GII Zenyatta Oct. 2 at Santa Anita. (Benoit Photos)

Baffert’s Midnight Memories Rates Top Billing In Monday’s Grade I, $300,000 La Brea 

With four horses entered, Monday’s Grade I, $300,000 La Brea Stakes would appear to run through the Bob Baffert stable. His Midnight Memories, fresh off a pair of graded stakes wins, rates top billing in a very competitive field of eight sophomore fillies going seven furlongs on Santa Anita’s opening day 11-race card.

Owned and bred by longtime Baffert devotees Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Midnight Memories has been idle since galloping to a 3 ¼ length score going 1 1/16 miles in the Grade II Zenyatta Stakes here on Oct. 2.

A winner of the Grade II Torrey Pines Stakes going a flat mile at Del Mar two starts back, Midnight Memories will be ridden for the third time in a row by Ramon Vazquez as she seeks her first Grade I trophy.

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Mastery, Midnight Memories has tasted defeat just once in five starts, a troubled third place finish is a six furlong allowance three starts back on July 28. Favored in four out of her five races, she looms the pari-mutuel choice in the La Brea as well.

Owned by Baoma Corp, Baffert’s Ganadora, a $1 million Keeneland September Yearling purchase, comes off an eight-length score going a flat mile in and ungraded stakes at Los Alamitos and will be ridden for the first time by Johnny Velazquez.

A winner of her first two starts at 6 ½ furlongs, Ganadora has won three of her four starts and will be trying Grade I competition for the first time.

Baffert is also solidly repped by his California-bred Fun to Dream, who he bred in partnership with Connie Pageler, who is also the co-owner along with Baffert’s wife Jill.

By Arrogate, Fun to Dream comes off a much better than looked head victory going seven furlongs in the statebred Betty Grable Stakes at Del Mar Nov. 13. In search of her third consecutive win, Fun to Dream has won four out of her five starts, all in partnership with Juan Hernandez, who’s back aboard in the La Brea.

Idle since finishing second to Eclipse Champ Ce Ce going 6 ½ furlongs in the Grade II Chillingworth Stakes here on Oct. 2, Baffert’s Under the Stars, who took the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes in her only try at seven furlongs six starts back on Jan. 8, will be reunited with Flavien Prat, who was aboard for the Santa Ynez score. Owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith the  Kentucky-bred filly by Pioneerof the Nile is 9-3-2-2 overall.

In what will be her first Southern California start, the speedy Hot Peppers, who ships in from Belmont Park for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, was a close second two starts back in the Grade I Test Stakes going seven panels on Aug. 6 at Saratoga and she was most recently fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade II Prioress as six furlongs on Sept. 2 at Saratoga.

By the Distorted Humor stallion Khozan, Hot Peppers, who was a Grade III winner sprinting three starts back, is 9-5-2-0 overall and is owned by Michael Dubb and Michael Caruso. 

The Grade I La Brea With Jockeys & Weights In Post Position Order

Race 8 of 11 Approximate post time 2:30p.m. PT

  1. Under the Stars – Flavien Prat – 122
  2. Hot Peppers – Tyler Gaffalione – 122
  3. Ganadora – John Velazquez – 120
  4. Midnight Memories – Ramon Vazquez – 122
  5. Ain’t Easy – Joel Rosario – 120
  6. Fun to Dream – Juan Hernandez – 120
  7. Kirsten Bosch – Kazushi Kimura – 120
  8. Awake At Midnyte – Mario Gutierrez – 120

First post time for an 11-race card that includes six graded stakes on Monday is at 11 a.m. Admission gates open at 9 a.m.
 

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