(Charlatan / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)

From the Santa Anita Media Team:

‘BRILLIANT’ CHARLATAN EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

It was business as usual Sunday morning for Bob Baffert, less than 24 hours after Charlatan demolished his rivals with a 4 ½-length victory in the Runhappy Malibu Stakes, the final Grade I race of a tumultuous 2020.

It was the 16th Grade I win of the year for Baffert, four more than runner-up Chad Brown, enhancing the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer’s chances for an Eclipse Award, although personal triumphs are not high on his priority list.

But with Authentic’s Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic victories and pending Horse of the Year honors a mere formality, Baffert assuredly has the credentials to merit such a singular honor.

But this morning it was all about the horse.

“He came back great,” Baffert said of Charlatan, who was making his first start since May 2, when he crossed the wire first by six lengths in the first division of the Grade I Arkansas Derby, only to be disqualified on a disputed medication violation.

“We haven’t really decided what we’re going to with him yet. It’s too early. We’ll give it a week.

“I thought he was going to need the race but he was a lot readier than I thought. We were hoping he would pick up where he left off, and he exceeded our expectations.

“He’s just a brilliant horse. He came out of it in really good shape so we’re excited. It was a good way to cap off the year.”

Now it’s on to 2021, and Baffert wasn’t letting the grass grow under his feet, so to speak.

“I breezed a lot of good horses today,” he said, among them Life Is Good, sensational winner by 9 ½ lengths of his debut race Nov. 22  for owner China Horse Club, Inc. And WinStar Farm LLC. The $525,000 son of Into Mischief is among five Baffert trainees nominated to Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes for three-year-olds at one mile.

Life Is Good went six furlongs in a bullet 1:10.60. In all, Baffert supervised 14 recorded works this morning.

“The track was really good today,” he said. “It was faster and they were getting over it good. It had a lot of bounce to it. We’re still debating whether Life Is Good will go in the Sham or the seven-eighths (the Grade II San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 7). I have to talk to Elliott Walden first.”

Walden is President and CEO of racing operations at WinStar, near Versailles, Ky.

Baffert does plan to enter debut winner Medina Spirit in the Sham, The Florida-bred son of Protonico owned by Zedan Racing Stables Inc. was a three-length winner going 5 ½ furlongs at Los Alamitos on Dec. 11 under Abel Cedillo. Medina Spirit breezed five furlongs today in 1:02.

AMENDED TURF COURSE A PORTRAIT IN GREEN

Santa Anita’s amended turf course was lush and verdant from gate to wire on opening day, hosting 39 runners in four races and looking every bit a portrait fresh from the brush of Claude Monet.

The all-new turf chute was orchestrated by world-class Track Surfaces Consultant Dennis Moore and ‘green-lighted’ by Santa Anita’s Aiden Butler last Aug. 17, proving to be the ideal complement to the track’s existing one-mile turf oval and 6 ½ furlong downhill course.

The turf chute parallels Santa Anita’s seven-furlong main track chute, providing fans and horsemen ample opportunities at six and 6 ½ furlong races throughout the Winter/Spring meet that concludes on June 20.

While he didn’t negotiate over the new chute, Avenue de France did win the first turf race at 1 1/8 miles on opening day, coming from behind and splitting horses late to win by a half-length under Drayden Van Dyke at 6-1 for trainer Leonard Powell.

“The course was very good,” Powell said. “There was just a tiny bit of cut in it but it looked very good and safe, which is what we want.”

(Smooth Like Strait / Coady Photography)

G1 KILROE NEXT FOR SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT

Smooth Like Strait, efficient winner of Saturday’s Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile on turf as the 4-5 favorite, likely will make his next start in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on grass March 6.

“That’s the plan,” trainer Michael McCarthy said for the Midnight Lute colt, now winner of six of 12 starts with earnings of $577,823 for owners/breeders Cannon Thoroughbreds, LLC.

McCarthy has Nasreddine, third in the Grade I Starlet Dec. 5, ticketed for next Sunday’s Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, and marathon turf specialist Another Mystery set for Saturday’s Grade II San Gabriel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on grass.

Ever on the go, McCarthy has come-backing ready Ohio for Friday’s Grade II Joe Hernandez Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on turf.

Ohio has not raced since March 7 when the soon-to-be 11-year-old gelded son of Elusive Quality finished seventh in the Kilroe. Ricky Gonzalez has the mount.

“Ohio just had a little R and R, just taking it easy,” McCarthy said.

As to Independence Hall’s disappointing fifth by nearly 10 lengths behind Charlatan in the Runhappy Malibu, McCarthy said: “I don’t think he handled the track, but he’ll live to fight another day.”

FINISH LINES: Santa Anita-based trainers won 10 of the 11 races on opening day. Only Chad Browninterrupted the skein when front-running Duopoly held on to win the Grade I American Oaks by a two lengths over 15-1 outsider Going to Vegas trained by Richard Baltas, also headquartered at Santa Anita . . .  There were 195 recorded workouts at Santa Anita this morning, 19 on the training track including a five furlong move in 1:02 by venerable Bowies Hero who goes in Saturday’s San Gabriel Stakes for Phil D’Amato . . . Octopus, 2-1 morning line favorite in today’s sixth race, has been claimed five times from his last seven races, running now for newly minted bridegroom Andrew Lerner who will be married to Katie, his girlfriend of seven years, this afternoon . . . Comforting and satisfying to hear Frank Mirahmadi again behind the mic at Santa Anita. From his days as a youthful admirer of the great Trevor Denman, 53-year-old Los Angeles native Mirahmadi is spot-on in description, accuracy and anticipation and has earned a niche as one the game’s most elite race callers . . . Santa Anita will be dark Monday through Wednesday and resume live racing on New Year’s Eve, Thursday, Dec. 31 at 12:30 p.m.

LATEST CONTENT FROM XBTV:

FEATURES:

Preview of the Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes

Jeff Siegel’s Day Makers for December 27th, 2020

WORKOUTS:

Acclimate (Outside) and Miss Bigly (D’Amato) 12-26-20

Synthesis (Papaprodromou) 12-26-20

Raging Whiskey (O’Neill) 12-26-20

Airman (Outside) and Bristol Bayou (Shirreffs)

Goalie (Outside) and Majestic Steps (D’Amato) 12-26-20

Pizzazz (Mandella) 12-25-20

Lane Way (Mandella) 12-25-20

Chipper (Glatt) 12-25-20

Jolie Olimpica (Outside) and Charlito (Mandella)

Hard Not To Love (Sherriffs) 12-23-20

Big Fish (Hofmans) 12-23-20

Tapwater (Outside) and Affianced (Mandella) 12-23-20