MALIBU STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 1 | 7 FURLONGS
Jimmy Creed, a disappointment in last month's Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint, rebounded with an emphatic victory in the $301,000 Malibu Stakes on opening day of the winter meet at Santa Anita Park Dec. 26.
With Garrett Gomez aboard, 8-1 shot Jimmy Creed surged past pacesetter Private Zone in deep stretch to post victory by three-quarters of a length, giving Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella his fifth win in the Malibu. It topped a tremendous opening day for the Mandella family after son Gary won the $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes three races earlier with Silentio.
Jimmy Creed posted his first stakes win for B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm in the Malibu, and his third victory overall from seven starts. The son of Distorted Humor out of the Citidancer mare Hookedonthefeelin was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings and cost $900,000 as a 2010 Keeneland September yearling.
The winner defeated eight rival 3-year-olds in the Malibu, which was clocked in a superb time of 1:20.36 for seven furlongs on a track upgraded to fast a couple of races earlier.
"Garrett gave him a great ride, kept him out of the dirt as best he could," Mandella said. "He's a good horse. He's been training great on the track all along. He just had a bad day in the Breeders' Cup, that's all. Gary and I have both won stakes races on the same day before, but not as good as this."
Private Zone, ridden by Martin Pedroza, was a game second after setting a swift pace, with Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Unbridled's Note and Corey Nakatani coming on late to get third over grade I winner Drill.
Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up The Lumber Guy, a surprisingly strong 4-5 favorite in a strong 61st renewal of the Malibu, pushed the recent Panama import Private Zone into the stretch before weakening to finish seventh under John Velazquez as the 123-pound highweight.
Jimmy Creed, meanwhile, got a perfect ground-saving trip while stalking the leaders in fourth as Private Zone grabbed the early lead and showed the way through quarter-mile fractions of :22.74, :44.77, and 1:08.27. Gomez, riding Jimmy Creed, was looking for somewhere to go in upper stretch when The Lumber Guy began to drift out, opening up room for the eventual winner. Jimmy Creed, though making a powerful bid, had plenty of work to do in wearing down a determined Private Zone in the final sixteenth of a mile and holding the 15-1 challenger off to the wire.
"When I left the gate my horse broke really well and stuck me in a place where I was very comfortable and he was traveling really comfortable," Gomez said. "I thought I was in a fairly good spot and it was just a matter of which horse was going to kick on, so I had to make a decision on which horse to follow.
"I was trying to follow John [Velazquez on The Lumber Guy] because I thought his horse would be a bit wider than Martin's [Pedroza] horse [Private Zone]. When we started to turn for home John's horse started to stop and I just slid in behind Martin and slid out. It was just a beautiful trip. It was a good learning experience for this horse and he just keeps getting better. I have a lot of confidence in him and hopefully he just continues to keep doing what he's doing."
Jimmy Creed had a tough loss in October's Santa Anita Sprint Championship, formerly the Ancient Title, finishing a close third behind Coil prior to the Breeders' Cup. In his most recent race, the chestnut colt was never involved while crossing the line ninth of 14 at Santa Anita. Mandella said afterward that he was disappointed with the effort but Jimmy Creed returned to train sharply, posting two bullet works over the Santa Anita main track. In his most recent drill, at seven furlongs Dec. 19, he was clocked in 1:24 4/5.
"The horse doesn't like dirt in his face and that's basically what bothered him in the Breeders' Cup," Mandella said. "We trained him behind horses and schooled him as much as we could, so I just told Garrett it was up to him to do what he thinks best. I got him out of the two hole and just close enough to where he didn't get that big stream of mud in his face."
Though Jimmy Creed has only raced around two turns once in his career, Mandella said he would consider stretching him out for the Strub Stakes and Santa Anita Handicap.
Mandella and Hughes, who teamed to win the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, have provided the few bright spots California has had against a spate of New York-based shippers to Southern California for Grade 1 races in the past two months.
For Mandella, Jimmy Creed's triumph followed the trainer's earlier wins in the Malibu by Rock Hard Ten (2004), Dixie Union (2000), Afternoon Deelites (1995), and Oraibi (1988). Gomez won the Malibu previously aboard Love That Red in 1999.
Jimmy Creed, who boosted his career earnings to $313,000, paid $19.20, $8.80, and $7 while carrying 118 pounds as the fourth choice. Private Zone, who was coming off a second in the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Betfair Hiollywood Park for trainer Doug O'Neill, returned $11 and $8. The exacta was worth $161.20, and the show price on Unbridled's Note was $4.40.
Drill was followed by his Bob Baffert stablemates, Guilt Trip and Fed Biz, in the final order. Then came The Lumber Guy, Politicallycorrect, and Basmati. Castaway scratched.