A revamped Strub Stakes, moved forward on the Santa Anita Park schedule and shortened in distance to 1 1/16 miles, features two strong entrants apiece from Hall of Fame trainers Bob Baffert and Jerry Hollendorfer.
The $200,000 event limited to 4-year-olds was previously contested in early February at 1 ⅛ miles as the final event in a three-race series of age-restricted races. Track management, however, has eliminated the middle leg, the San Fernando Stakes, previously a Grade 2, from the schedule leaving only the Malibu, the traditional meet opener for 3-year-olds Dec. 26, and the Strub.
This year's Strub attracted a field of eight and it will go as the eighth race on the Saturday card with a 4 p.m. PST scheduled post.
Malibu winner Shakin It Up will try routing for Baffert, who also entered the returning Govenor Charlie. Hollendorfer will be represented by Hear The Ghost and Zeewat in the 68th renewal of the Strub.
Shakin It Up, owned by his breeder, Mike Pegram, and Dennis Cardoza, closed from 11 lengths back after a half mile to register a 17-1 surprise in the seven-furlong Malibu, which he won by half a length over Central Banker with Zeewat third. It was the first start for the Midnight Lute colt since a fourth-place finish nine months earlier in the Sunland Derby, the colt's only prior experience around two turns.
Winner of the San Vicente Stakes last year for Baffert, Shakin It Up has won three of four starts at Santa Anita with a second in his maiden debut in October 2012. Mike Smith takes over riding duties for David Flores, now competing in Singapore. Shakin It Up leaves from post 3 and gets in with 118 pounds.
Baffert will also send out freshened up Governor Charlie, another Pegram homebred owned in partnership with Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. Also a son of Midnight Lute, Governor Charlie has been idle since lagging home eighth of nine in the Preakness Stakes May 18. Prior to that, the dark bay colt dominated the Sunland Derby by five lengths. Martin Garcia, who has been aboard for all four of the colt's starts, has the call once again.
Hollendorfer's duo appear every bit as formidable. Hear the Ghost won the San Felipe March 9 on his way to the Santa Anita Derby but suffered a slight bone chip after that and went to the sidelines. He has two starts back and is coming off a stout runner-up finish to stablemate Blueskiesnrainbows by half a length in the Native Diver Stakes Dec. 14 at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Hear the Ghost, a son of Ghostzapper owned by Halo Farms and Hollendorfer, has worked four times over the Santa Anita main track since the Native Diver, most recently covering a half mile in :48 ⅗ Jan. 14.
Zeewat closed a ton of ground to wind up third in the Malibu, 1 ¼ lengths bhind Shakin It Up, earning a 103 Beyer figure. In his only prior try at 1 1/16 miles, the Harlan's Holiday colt captured the listed California Derby at Golden Gate Fields one year ago.
Owned by George Todaro and Hollendorfer, Zeewat has six wins and two thirds from 12 starts, and will again be handled by leading rider Rafael Bejarano, who has been up for his last two starts. They break from post 4.
Stronach Stables Rookie Sensation, winner of the Twilight Derby on the Santa Anita turf Nov. 1 and fifth in the Hollywood Derby one month later, is to try the dirt for the first time. Trained by John Shirreffs, the gray son of Unbridled's Song should have no problem with the distance, having routed in his past five starts. Rookie Sensation will be ridden again by Victor Espinoza in search of his fourth career win.
Heir of Storm, seventh in the Malibu, will get an opportunity to stretch out for trainer Peter Miller, while Dice Flavor switches from the turf for Paddy Gallagher. Say Ow completes the lineup.