Malibu Stakes (Grade 1)

“THIS is not an ordinary horse - this is a very special horse.” It was big talk from trainer John Sadler last weekend.

But it was a big performance that merited it. Sadler’s colt Flightline had only run twice before last Sunday, winning his maiden in Santa Anita last April and an allowance race at Del Mar in September, though the wins were by margins of 13 and a quarter lengths and 12 and three-quarter lengths

Now pitched into the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita, he put up one of the performances of the season – one which gained him the biggest Beyer Speed Figure of the year, 118 for his 11-and-a-half-length success in the seven-furlong contest.

Flightline was also awarded a 127 Equibase Speed Figure, the top number earned by any horse racing on dirt in North America this season.

In the Malibu, as the 2/5 favourite, jockey Flavien Prat had chosen Flightline over Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Dr. Schivel and unbeaten Triple Tap and the field also included Grade 2 Vosburgh Stakes third Baby Yoda.

It looked much tougher than Flightline’s two previous outings but the Tapit colt continued a career that has been brief but brilliant.

Flightline broke in seventh, bumped with Dr. Schivel to his inside but then went to the front easily. Team Merchants and Baby Yoda went with him early but Prat was simply waiting to ask Flightline for his speed.

“I was in cruise control the whole race. I wanted to get a good position and get myself into the race,” Prat said.

Flightline began pulling away at the three-furlong pole. A length quickly became five and then six into the straight. Flightline coasted home ahead of Baby Yoda, stopping the clock in 1m 21.37secs for seven furlongs.

Sadler said he liked the colt from the first time he saw him. “I looked at this beautiful horse and was excited from day one,” said the trainer.


Flightline’s brief career to date was due to a couple of setbacks and a foot bruise later caused the team to take it slowly. The Malibu was the last chance against three-year-olds before he tackles older runners, with a race against Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Life Is Good one to savour.

“There is a lot of pressure on you, but it is the pressure you want, Sadler said. “You know you have something special, and he is much the best. The next race is up to the horse. We have to be true to the horse. This horse is so brilliant.”

Stephanie Hronis, Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds, and bloodstock agent David Ingordo had bought the Lane’s End-consigned son of Tapit for $1 million, Fasig-Tipton’s selected yearling sale in Saratoga Springs in August 2019.

KALYPSO gave her sire Brody’s Cause a first Grade 1 winner with a stylish victory in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita on the Sunday card.

The Bob Baffert-trained 8/1 shot, making her first start since April, ranged up three wide at the top of the straight before powering clear to win by four and three-quarter lengths over seven furlongs in 1m 24.78secs.

“Bob and I talked about it. We thought there was a lot of speed in the race and we knew she had speed, but I didn’t want to be in a duel and not have anything to finish with,” Velazquez said. The La Brea was the fourth win on the card for jockey John Velazquez.

Goddess in Oaks

The American Oaks for three-year-old fillies was downgraded from Grade 1 to a Grade 2 affair after rain saw it moved off turf on Monday, though it may be reinstated.

Trainer Michael McCarthy had four of the 10 starters though none had raced on dirt.

The surface change counted against Irish-bred 4/5 favourite Going Global on her dirt debut, but McCarthy wound up with the one-two as Queen Goddess beat stablemate Nicest by two and three-quarter lengths under Juan J. Hernandez.

Hernandez quickly guided her to a clear lead and was never seriously threatened in the 10-furlong test.

“I felt a race as prestigious as this should be run on the grass, whether it be rescheduled or if they did whatever they had to run it today,” the trainer said.

“That was very good. It was spectacular,” McCarthy added about a win that came after his earlier Grade 3 success in the Santa Anita Mathis Mile Stakes with Law Professor, also moved from the turf to the dirt.

Eclipse Thoroughbreds founder and president Aron Wellman said of the daughter of Empire Maker: “We had been eager for the opportunity to try her on dirt, but as a three-year-old filly, turf is where most of the options are. She had trained very well on the dirt. This opens up a whole new world of opportunity for her going into 2022.”

Sunday’s victory was the 23rd stakes win for the owners, highlighted by the wins of Aloha West in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Quick Suzy in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“It’s been a monster 2021 for us and I’m very grateful to our partners for the faith they put in us,” Wellman said.

Express Train edged out classic-placed Grade 1 winner Hot Rod Charlie in the $201,000 Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes for a nose victory.

The son of classic winner Union Rags took the eight-and-a-half-furlong test for his third Grade 2 win of a productive 2021 season where he was also placed in the Grade 1s, Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Awesome Again Stakes, in 10 races from this card last December.

At the wire

“I was able to follow and move with Hot Rod Charlie. This horse takes a little bit of time at the turn, so I had to start pedaling to start following the other horses. Today it worked out and we got it right at the wire,” Victor Espinoza said.

Doug O’Neill, trainer of 1/5 favourite Hot Rod Charlie, believes he can build off Sunday’s effort going into 2022 with the target being the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March at Meydan.

“We got beat a bob. We are very optimistic about the next year with him. He ran a great race,” he said.