By Alan Carasso
A pair of Speightstown 'TDN Rising Stars'–Nashville and Charlatan–looked to have their four rivals over a barrel in Saturday's GI Runhappy Malibu S., the traditional post-Christmas opening day feature at Santa Anita Park. The former had the benefit of recency, his three wins from as many starts coming by 24 3/4 lengths combined, while the latter was resurfacing for the first time since crossing the line best in the slightly slower of the two divisions of the GI Arkansas Derby May 2. Nashville was sent off the 13-10 favorite to continue his streak, but Charlatan belied his absence with a thoroughly dominating victory, treating those who maintained the faith to a relatively juicy $5.20 as the second betting choice. Express Train (Union Rags) and Collusion Illusion (Twirling Candy) filled out the minors, as Nashville struggled home a well-beaten fourth.
“They were rolling early, there was a really good horse he was chasing,” said Baffert. “I'm just happy for the whole team and everybody involved, to show he is a really special horse. Hopefully, we will have a good year  with him.”
The early part of the Malibu played out as most pace handicappers had mapped it–Nashville was quickest out and made the lead with a minimum of fuss, and Charlatan–perhaps not quite as brilliantly fast–was content to chase from second beneath Hall of Famer Mike Smith. Nashville's opening couple of furlongs were covered in :21.81 and his half-mile split of :43.95 was in line with the :43.87 he'd clocked in winning his debut at Saratoga Sept. 2 and again in his Perryville S. romp Nov. 7. Comparisons with those two races ended right about the quarter pole. Nashville was confronted by Charlatan, but the colt offered little resistance, and Charlatan was off and gone, geared down by Smith in the final 100 yards to score with something left in the tank.
“To run against these types of horses was a feat itself, but I always thought he was a special horse,” said Smith, who won the Malibu aboard McKinzie (Street Sense) and Omaha Beach (War Front) in 2018 and 2019, respectively. “I've had the opportunity to watch him, California is his home base, so I've seen a lot of him and always wanted a chance to ride him. When Bob told me I got the call, man I've been kind of on cloud nine ever since. He is extremely special.”
Charlatan was deemed a no-brainer 'Rising Star' off a 5 3/4-length thrashing of the solid Shooters Shoot (Competitive Edge) on his Feb. 16 debut before treating future GSW Rushie (Liam's Map) to a 10 1/4-length beating in a one-mile allowance Mar. 14. Forced to ship out of town when coronavirus put a halt to racing locally shortly thereafter, Charlatan was 40 cents on the dollar and reported home six lengths to the good at Oaklawn in early May, only to be disqualified for a drug positive. Charlatan was being pointed for the first leg of the reconstituted Triple Crown–the June 20 GI Belmont S.–but suffered an ankle injury and had not been heard from since.
Charlatan is the 19th Northern Hemisphere Grade I/Group 1 winner, 59th GSW and 120th black-type winner for Speightstown and the stallion's fourth top-level winner in 2020, joining Echo Town, Mozu Superflare and Lady Speightspeare. He has an additional Southern Hemisphere Group 1 winner, She's Happy (Arg). Quiet American is now the broodmare sire of 123 SWs and 43 GSWs and 15 at G1/GI level, including Horse of the Year Saint Liam (Saint Ballado), champion Bernardini (A.P. Indy) and Whywhywhy (Mr. Greeley) from the same Gone West sire line as Charlatan. Authenticity, who was second in the GI Zenyatta S. and third in the GI Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita, is the dam of the 2-year-old Bennyfromthebronx (Tapit), a $300,000 Keeneland September yearling who breezed five furlongs in 1:03.80 (6/10) at Payson Park Dec. 22, and a yearling Into Mischief filly.
Saturday, Santa Anita
RUNHAPPY MALIBU S.-GI, $300,500, Santa Anita, 12-26, 3yo, 7f, 1:21.50, ft.
1–CHARLATAN, 120, c, 3, by Speightstown
1st Dam: Authenticity (MGSW & MGISP, $883,362),
by Quiet American
2nd Dam: Court of Appeal, by Deputy Minister
3rd Dam: Appealing Missy, by Lypheor (GB)
1ST BLACK-TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN, 1ST GRADE I
WIN. 'TDN Rising Star' ($700,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP). O-SF Racing
LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Stonestreet Stables
LLC, Frederick Hertrich, III, John D. Fielding, and Golconda
Stables; B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY); T-Bob
Baffert; J-Mike E. Smith. $180,000. Lifetime Record: 4-3-0-0,
$247,200. *1/2 to Hanalei Moon (Malibu Moon), SW-USA,
SP-Can, $296,840. Click for eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Werk Nick Rating: C+.
2–Express Train, 120, c, 3, Union Rags–I'm a Flake, by
Mineshaft. ($500,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP). O-C R K Stable LLC;
B-Dixiana Farms LLC (KY); T-John A. Shirreffs. $60,000.
3–Collusion Illusion, 124, c, 3, Twirling Candy–Natalie Grace, by
First Dude. ($50,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP; $300,000 2yo '19
OBSAPR). O-Dan J Agnew, Jerry Schneider, Rodney Orr &
MyRacehorse.com; B-Donald R. Dizney, LLC (FL); T-Mark Glatt.
Margins: 4HF, HF, 3 1/4. Odds: 1.60, 16.80, 10.00.
Also Ran: Nashville, Independence Hall, Thousand Words.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.