Simple Pleasure: Graded Racing On Opening Day In Arcadia

Speed Boat Beach | Benoit

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Boxing Day is not a holiday observed on the American calendar–thanks, Revolutionary generation. However, the day after Christmas is circled in red by the horse racing cadre because it means one thing: Opening Day at Santa Anita Park.

This Tuesday, an 11-race card kicks off at 2 p.m. ET under the picturesque San Gabriel mountains in Arcadia, California–six of which are graded stakes.

To entice the horseplayer, the Classic Meet sports a $1 Pick Six, a 14 percent takeout on both the .50 Early and Late Pick 5, and we will see the return of the $3 All-Turf Pick 3, which was announced during the recent Autumn Meet.

As for the graded lineup, of course the feature is once again the GI Malibu S. for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs on dirt.

Trainer Bob Baffert has GSW Speed Boat Beach (Bayern), GSW Fort Bragg (Tapit) and GISP Hejazi (Bernardini) ready to go. The Hall of Famer, who won last year's edition with 'TDN Rising Star' Taiba (Gun Runner), is seeking his sixth win in the Malibu. That would tie fellow Hall member Richard Mandella for most wins all-time in the race.

The 3-year-old fillies take the stage in the GI La Brea S. going seven furlongs. GISP Clearly Unhinged (Into Mischief) looks to be the leading contender. The Michael McCarthy-trainee was most recently sixth at 'The Great Race Place' in the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 4.

Baffert, who has won the last two La Breas, and with a record of nine overall, enters GSP Fast and Shiny (Bernardini), while trainer Brad Cox ships in SW Howl (Practical Joke).

Anisette | Benoit

In the GI American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/4 miles on turf, GISW Anisette (GB) Awtaad (Ire) is the standout. The Leonard Powell-trainee won the GI Del Mar Oaks and GII San Clemente S. at Del Mar earlier this year. Most recently, Anisette was the runner-up in both the GII Rodeo Drive S. Oct. 7 and GIII Autumn Miss S. Nov. 5, both at Santa Anita.

Alongside the three Grade Is are the same number of Grade IIs, which all carry a purse of $200,000. The GII San Gabriel S. for 3-year-olds and up at nine furlongs on turf includes Easter (Fr). The Phil D'Amato-trainee won his first start for his new barn in the GII Seabiscuit H. at Del Mar Nov. 25. The 5-year-old Australian-bred by Exosphere (Aus) was previously based in New York with trainer Graham Motion.

The GII San Antonio S. is for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on dirt. Present are Stilleto Boy (Shackleford), winner of this year's GI Santa Anita H.; GSW Newgrange (Violence); MGSW Brickyard Ride (Clubhouse Ride); and GSW Salesman (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}). Add in South American import Subsanador (Arg) (Fortify), who is a Argentinian multiple Group 1 winner, and this makes for a pretty salty affair.

In what might be the most open battle on the whole card, the GII Mathis Mile S. over the grass for 3-year-olds includes GSP Almendares (GB) (Havana Grey {GB}), SW Dandy Man Shines (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}) and GSP Panic Alarm (Ire) (Kuroshio {Aus}).

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