(Trainer Bob Baffert will send out Charlatan in G1 Malibu on Dec. 26 / Coady Photography)

From the Santa Anita Media Team:

A pair of unbeatens, Bob Baffert’s Charlatan and Steve Asmussen’s Nashville head a powerful group of probable starters in Santa Anita’s Grade I, $300,000 Runhappy Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs on opening day, Saturday, Dec. 26.  Santa Anita’s traditional opening day headliner, the Malibu, the final Grade I of the year for 3-year-olds, will be run for the 74th time.  (The race was run in divisions in 1972, 1975, 1977 & 1984).

Idle since taking a division of the Grade I Arkansas Derby by six lengths on May 2, Charlatan was subsequently disqualified from purse money due to a medication violation, so he thus officially has two wins from three starts.  Including the Arkansas Derby, Charlatan, who broke his maiden and took a first condition allowance here this past winter, has won his three starts by a combined 22 lengths.

In a performance that had the racing world abuzz on Breeders’ Cup Classic Day at Keeneland Nov. 7, Nashville powered to a 3 ½ length victory in a six furlong ungraded stakes, stopping the clock at 1:07.80 and thus earning a solid 102 Beyer Speed figure–two points less than Whitmore’s 104 Beyer in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint over the same surface.  Heavily favored in three starts, all sprints, Nashville, like Charlatan, is a son of champion sprinter Speightstown.  A first-out maiden winner Sept. 2 at Saratoga, he’s won all three of his races in gate to wire fashion by a combined 24 ¾ lengths.

Baffert will also be represented in the Malibu by three-time stakes winner Thousand Words, who has been idle since well beaten in the Grade I Preakness Stakes Oct. 3.

Mark Glatt’s Grade I stakes winning sprinter Collusion Illusion is also listed as probable and although he was well beaten by Whitmore when shuffled back early in the Breeder’s Cup Sprint, he ran a much better-than-looked race and should give a good account of himself back on his home ground.

Nominations closed Dec. 10 and among those also listed as probable for the Malibu are the John Shirreffs-trained Express Train, Michael McCarthy’s Independence Hall and Doug O’Neill’s Strongconstitution.

Opening day entries for the Runhappy Malibu and five other stakes, the Grade I La Brea, the Grade I American Oaks, the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile, the Grade II San Antonio and the Lady of Shamrock Stakes, will be taken at Santa Anita on Monday, Dec. 21.

Although there is still no public admittance due to continuing restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Anita’s races can be viewed live at santaanita.com/live  and fans can watch and wager on these races via a number of ADW platforms, including 1st.com/Bet.

Special early first post time on opening day is at 11 a.m.  For additional information, please visit santaanita.com  or call (626) 574-RACE.