All you need to know about the marquee race on Santa Anita Park’s Opening Day slate – the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes – is that Dr. Schivel: a two-time Grade 1 winner and the only Grade 1 winner in the field, isn’t the favorite.

Flightline-Malibu Stakes
Flightline and Flavien Prat won this spring maiden debut at Santa Anita by more than 13 lengths. The two figure to draw plenty of money in Sunday’s Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park. (Image: Benoit Photo)

The same Dr. Schivel who was a nose hair away from winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint; he lost in a photo finish to 11/1 Aloha West. The same Dr. Schivel who may win an Eclipse Award as Best Male Sprinter. And he remains either an afterthought or a contrarian pick to win the Malibu Stakes.

For that, you can thank Flightline, the buzziest of buzz horses in the biggest buzz race on Santa Anita’s Opening Day card. Santa Anita morning-line author Jon White made him the 4/5 morning-line favorite in the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes. It’s a mortal lock that White will add this to his morning-line-favorites-who-remain-favorites list.

Why a horse with only two starts – neither a stakes race at any level – who is running off Lasix for the first time is the marquee horse in the day’s marquee race is easy to understand. All you have to do is look at the numbers:

Flightline’s speed figures are supersonic

The first: 13 ¼, which represents the number of lengths Flightline won his debut race at Santa Anita in April.

The second: 12 ¾, which represents the number of lengths Flightline won his second race at Del Mar in September.

The third: 114, which represents Flightline’s Beyer Speed Figure for that September victory. That is tied for the best Beyer among North American horses this year.

And the fourth: 130. That represents Flightline’s Equibase Speed Figure from that Del Mar victory. By way of comparison, Knicks Go ran a 118 Equibase winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Aloha West? He clocked a 110 Equibase capturing the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Nobody else in the Malibu Stakes has this kind of speed

In fact, Dr. Schivel’s 112 Equibase is the next closest figure in the Malibu field. If he runs that and Flightline runs the 116 he ran in his first outing, Flightline still comfortably wins.

Add all those numbers up in the Malibu equation and you come up with a colt sporting freakish speed. A son of Tapit, Flightline fired bullet workouts in three of his last four works and four of his last six for trainer John Sadler. He retains the riding services of Flavien Prat, who was 4-for-4 aboard Dr. Schivel and 2-for-2 aboard fellow Malibu contender Triple Tap.

Yet, Prat chose Flightline.

You also have a colt that will likely get overbet while making this class leap from allowance monster to Grade 1 contender. So if you’re feeling contrarian after putting Flightline in your multi-race wagers, Dr. Schivel (5/2) is there for the value taking.

Dr. Schivel is a great class and value play here

It’s not like you’re holding your nose here. Dr. Schivel hasn’t missed the board in eight career races (5-2-1). He’s won two Grade 1s: the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar in July and the Del Mar Futurity as a 2-year-old last September. Throw in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship and that agonizing near-miss in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and you have a legitimate threat with great tactical speed who reeks value.

Two other intriguing possibilities form the chorus here. The first is Baby Yoda (6/1). Remember when we discussed Flightline’s 114 Beyer sharing the distinction as the fastest Beyer of the year? Here’s who owns the other share of that Beyer. Baby Yoda’s 114 Beyer came in a September Saratoga allowance.

Just as the betting public piled on the Baby Yoda bandwagon, he turned in two clunkers. The first was his third by 7 ¼ lengths to Following Sea in the Grade 2 Vosburgh. The second was an awful seventh in the Steel Valley Sprint Stakes at Double-A track Mahoning Valley. That came by nearly five lengths as the 7/10 favorite. Baby Yoda is 3-0-2 in six races, but that monster Beyer looks more outlier than proof the Force is with Baby Yoda.

Grade 1 Malibu Stakes/Santa Anita Park

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. Baby Yoda, 6/1, (Jose Ortiz/Bill Mott)
  2. Timeless Bounty, 20/1 (Umberto Rispoli/Robert Hess Jr.)
  3. Stilleto Boy, 12/1 (Kent Desormeaux/Ed Moger Jr.)
  4. Dr. Schivel, 5/2 (Juan Hernandez/Mark Glatt)
  5. Flightline, 4/5 (Flavien Prat/John Sadler)
  6. Team Merchants, 20/1 (Mario Gutierrez/Doug O’Neill)
  7. Triple Tap, 5/1 (John Velazquez/Bob Baffert)

The second is Triple Tap (5/1). Like Flightline, Triple Tap is unbeaten in two races. And like Flightline, those wins came in a maiden-breaking debut at Santa Anita and an allowance optional claimer at Del Mar. Unlike Flightline, this Bob Baffert charge doesn’t have the freak-show speed figures in those victories.

What he does have – beside Baffert pulling the strings — is the bluest of blue-blood pedigrees. Triple Tap is the son of Tapit and the half-brother to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Triple Tap’s best Equibase of 107 makes him competitive to win Baffert’s fifth Malibu. But likely only down-ticket.

The $300,000 Malibu is the 10th race on Santa Anita’s 11-race card.

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