The Grade 1, $300,000 Malibu has a field of seven three-year-olds going seven furlongs on the dirt. BC Sprint champion Runhappy is 6-5 on the morning line and figures to go off as a heavy favorite.
According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, the Malibu will have a pace that favors speed. As if he doesn’t have enough other advantages, Runhappy is projected to be on a clear early lead on this pace. Bad Read Sanchez and Marking are shown in stalking positions.
The top Late Pace rating in the field, a 112, belongs to Watershed.
Here is the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:
Pain and Misery (20-1): The most heavily raced horse in the field, he has had little success in graded company, and his last two starts came at off-the-beaten-path Zia Park. His most recent start, in an ungraded stake, led to a lifetime top speed figure of 117, but even that leaves him short against the best of these.
Marking (5-2): Makes the third start of his career today. He made short work of a MSW field in his debut, at Belmont, and then he scuttled a bottom-level allowance field at Aqueduct, improving his speed figure from a 104 to a 121. That’s a heady number for such an inexperienced horse, and he has a pleasing stalking style. Up in class today from a race that received a Race Rating of 111 to a race that receives a preliminary Race Rating of 119. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin lacks enough starts on this circuit to get a rating on it, but he does get a strong 96 with circuit switchers, a 94 off comparable time between starts, and a 90 with third-time starters. Marking had a fast drill over this surface the other day. He has won at distances both shorter and longer than today’s distance. And he is the second-fastest horse in the race on our speed figures—and by a clear margin. Contender who gets tested for class today.
Watershed (4-1): The “other” horse trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, he broke his maiden in style at Saratoga (speed figure of 109). Then he had a troubled trip in the Grade 1 Kings Bishop at Saratoga but still managed to improve his speed figure to a 115. Then he shipped to Keeneland and regressed to a 109 while beating a bottom-level allowance field with ease. He recorded a strong drill over the surface a week ago. He is proven at the distance. The Kings Bishop two back received a Race Rating higher than today’s. He certainly fits in here and is eligible to run a new top (which he’ll almost certainly need). The biggest knock on him may be the likely pace. Pace Projector shows him in last place after the opening quarter—this in a race projected to favor early speed. Whether he can clear such a hurdle against Runhappy is highly questionable.
BC Sprint champion is undefeated in six sprints and has taken his game to an elite level in his last there starts. Three back he scorched the field in the aforementioned Kings Bishop, earning a speed figure of 128. Then he had big trouble in the Grade 3 Phoenix in Keeneland slop, overcame it in extremely impressive fashion, and recorded a speed figure of 123, a number that plainly would have been many points higher with a clean trip. Then he stalked the pace in the BC Sprint (a race rated nine points higher than today’s) and did what was asked in the lane, pairing his top of 128. The injured Prado gives way to Gary Stevens here, hardly a worry in a race run at Santa Anita. Runhappy is proven at the distance. He has reportedly been training well over the surface. The trainer switch, in fiery circumstances, has garnered a lot of attention, but we are choosing to consider it neutral (from a racing standpoint). Runhappy is the best horse in the field on paper, and he figures to have the pace in his favor, If he runs his race on the track, one of his opponents will have to run a special race to beat him.
El Kabeir (8-1): Terranova-trained colt is 5 for 11 lifetime and has a Grade 2 win to his credit. He’ll be making his third start off the layoff today, a category in which Terranova gets a rating of only 57. Pace Projector shows him racing well off the projected slow pace. That’s a negative. Plus his lifetime top speed figure of 113 is well short of what will probably be necessary against these. That’s a bigger negative.
Bad Read Sanchez (30-1): Way too slow.
Lord Nelson (5-1): Comes in off the layoff for Baffert, who is superb with this sort (94 rating). Has been training well for his return. Proven at the distance and over the surface and has a Grade 2 win under his belt. On the negative side, the projected pace is against him, and his lifetime top speed figure is 16 points slower than Runhappy’s best.
The Bottom Line:
If Runhappy runs his race, this race should be his.