Santa Anita: Speed Boat Beach Wins Malibu; Daddysruby Takes La Brea; Anisette Scores in American Oaks

It was a record-setting opening day at The Great Race Place.

Santa Anita Park was bustling with bettors – a crowd of 37,143 contributed to a record opening day handle of $18.3 million — as Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert delivered a 1-2 punch in the $300,000 Malibu (G1) on Tuesday, one of three Grade 1s on the stellar card.

Speed Boat Beach and Hejazi raced as the top two throughout, with Speed Boat Beach taking charge in upper stretch for a 1 ¼-length victory, giving Baffert a record-equaling sixth win in the 7-furlong Malibu.

Flavien Prat guided the 3-year-old son of Bayern to the rail from the 3 post and dueled with Hejazi through the backstretch before a little nudge sent Speed Boat Beach into the lead.

“He was really sharp early.  I got him to relax, and we took a little breather,’ Prat said. “Around the turn, he really went well.  He didn’t mind being on the inside. He was really in a good rhythm today.”

Sent off as the 8-5 favorite in a field of seven, Speed Boat Beach returned $5.20 on a $2 win bet.

Baffert’s Winning Insights: Speed Boat Beach and Hejazi Make Waves

The highly regarded Florida bred, a $500,000 purchase, gained his first win in three starts in 2023. He ran fourth in the BC Sprint (G1) in his previous start and was second in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) in September. In 2022, he was 3-for- 4.

“It is a good feeling, turning for home I knew I was going to win it,’’ Baffert said. “I wasn’t sure which one it was going to be, I would have liked to run one, two, three (Fort Bragg was sixth). Speed Boat Beach has always shown since his first out that he was something special, hopefully he can build from this.”

Hejazi, a New York bred purchased for $3.5 million by Zedan Racing Stables, showed he also may be a horse to be reckoned with in 2024. The 3-year-old son of Bernadini is 8-2-4-1 with earnings of $310,700.

“He is a serious horse. He was a little bit keen today. We weren’t able to train this last week,’’ Baffert said. “Juan (Hernandez) was telling me he couldn’t get him to relax very well so he used himself up a little bit. I see big things for him down the road.”

In the other two Grade 1s on the card …

$300,000 American Oaks (G1)

The 3-5 favorite Anisette ($3.20) put in her usual closing rush and won the American Oaks by 1 ¾ lengths over Be Your Best in a field of five going 1 1/4 miles on the turf.

Her last two races, she didn’t win, but there were circumstances. I didn’t blame her, and she made amends today,’’ trainer Leonard Powell said. “She’s been a part of the exacta for six straight races (four wins and two seconds). “She’s the goods.

$300,000 La Brea (G1)

Juan Hernandez guided 6-1 shot Daddysruby ($14.20) to a nose victory over Big Pond in the La Brea for 3-year-old fillies. It took a photo finish to decide the winner. The winning time for the 7 furlongs was 1:23.06.

Howl. The 8-5 favorite faded and finished eighth.

“That was a close one, I didn’t know who got it. It was really tough,’’ co-owner Gary Barber said of the Peter Miller trainee. “It looked like we were going to come second but winning like that is thrilling …  There’s nothing better than winning a Grade I, on opening day.”

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