Unbeaten 'TDN Rising Star' Nashville (Speightstown) has been nothing, but sensational in his three racetrack appearances thus far and he looks to take his career to the next level in the GI Runhappy Malibu S. at Santa Anita Saturday. Romping by 11 1/2 lengths in the slop in his Saratoga unveiling Sept. 2, the $460,000 KEESEP purchase demolished a Keeneland allowance by 9 3/4 lengths next out Oct. 10. His Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen decided to take a more sensible route with his pupil and bypassed the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint in favor of the Perryville S. on the undercard at Keeneland Nov. 7. Nashville ran the field off their hooves right from the get-go, completing the six-furlong event in a new track record time of 1:07.89. That time was almost a full second faster than the BC Sprint, which Whitmore (Pleasantly Perfect) finished in 1:08.61.
Nashville faces another speedy son of Speightstown who has yet to be beaten to the finish line in Charlatan. A dazzling debut winner in Arcadia Feb. 16, the 'TDN Rising Star' made a mockery of a one-mile allowance at Santa Anita Mar. 14, coasting home to a 10 1/4-length victory. The $700,000 KEESEP acquisition crossed the line six lengths clear when taking his division of the GI Arkansas Derby May 2, but was later disqualified for a lidocaine positive. Pointed towards the GI Belmont S. in June, Charlatan was knocked off the Triple Crown trail by an ankle chip that required surgery, but displays a speedy series of drills since returning to the Bob Baffert barn.
Baffert also sends out Thousand Words (Pioneerof the Nile) in this event. Runner-up in the GIII Los Alamitos Derby July 4, the $1 million KEESEP buy captured the Shared Belief S. at Del Mar Aug 1. A late scratch from the GI Kentucky Derby Sept. 5 after rearing up and flipping over in the paddock, the bay could only manage eighth when seeking redemption in the GI Preakness S. Oct. 3.
GSW Independence Hall (Constitution) makes his second start for trainer Mike McCarthy after winning a Del Mar optional claimer Nov. 8. Rounding out the field is GI Bing Crosby S. victor Collusion Illusion (Twirling Candy) and Express Train (Union Rags), who was last seen finishing eighth when trying turf in the GII Twilight Derby Oct. 18.