Malibu Stakes Predictions: Taiba Is the Class of the Race

Written by: Brian Zipse
Updated December 22, 2022
8 min read

Malibu Stakes Post Position and Odds









J J Hernandez 

R Mandella




J Velazquez

B Baffert




R Vasquez

P Miller




T Gaffalione

W Ward




J Rosario

D Stewart




M Smith

B Baffert




R Santana Jr

P Miller




F Prat

D Stewart




E Maldonado

D Blacker

*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.

Malibu Stakes Predictions and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

  • $20 Exacta - Taiba over Messier = $20
  • $5 Trifecta Part Wheel - Taiba over Messier over Nakatomi, Forbidden Kingdom, Apprehend and Hoist the Gold = $20
  • $5 Trifecta Part Wheel - Taiba over Nakatomi, Forbidden Kingdom, Apprehend and Hoist the Gold over Messier = $20
  • If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Taiba (6/5).    
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Malibu Stakes

Twice a Grade 1 winner this year, the Bob Baffert-trained Taiba looks to finish the season in style when he headlines a field of nine sophomores in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on opening day at Santa Anita.

A son of Gun Runner, he earned his first two career victories at Santa Anita, including the Santa Anita Derby in April. That Grade 1 victory came in only his second career start.

Last out he finished third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic behind the soon-to-be Horse of the Year Flightline. Two starts back he scored in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby. A win in the 7-furlong Malibu would boost his chances for an Eclipse Award.

Chief among his challengers on Monday will be the Richard Mandella-trained Forbidden Kingdom. Twice a Grade 2 winner at Santa Anita earlier this year, the American Pharoah colt will be looking to snap a three-race losing streak.

Most recently the speedster finished third, beaten only a half-length in a six-furlong allowance at Del Mar behind a pair of strong older horses.

Nakatomi is another who should get plenty of support on Sunday. Although he has yet to win a graded stakes race, the son of Firing Line has proven himself a talented sprinter. 

A stakes winner last season for trainer Wesley Ward, he has won two of three since returning from a long layoff. Last out he was an impressive winner of a loaded allowance field at Keeneland.

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Malibu Stakes Predictions and Race Analysis


This son of Gun Runner has proven himself to be one of the nation’s best 3-year-olds with a series of impressive races. He was no match last time for Flightline, but finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic is nothing to be ashamed of. 

The two-time Grade 1 winner is also returning to the track where he looked so good in winning his first two career races. The drop from ten furlongs down to seven could be tricky against fast horses, but his tactical style and strong turn of foot should be able to overcome that. 

While every other horse in this Grade 1 field has holes in their past performances, I cannot say the same for this Baffert runner. He is the class of the race and the top pick.

Forbidden Kingdom

A sharp winner of the San Vicente and San Felipe early this year, this speedy son of American Pharoah was actually favored over both Taiba and Messier in the Santa Anita Derby. He faded out of contention that afternoon and has yet to find the winner’s circle in his two comeback races this fall. 

Having said that, he did not run poorly in either and in fact, ran very well last time when beaten just a half-length by the good older horse Get Her Number in a swift allowance race. 

He will be sharp and ready for this test, but with other speed signed on, I am not sure that he will fare much better than he did before against the Baffert runners. He is dangerous, but I prefer others.


This chestnut gelding was on the shelf for eight months after becoming a stakes winner last October. He’s won 2-of-3 since returning, including a very good allowance score over a field which included Messier. That one did have an excuse for his poor effort, though. 

A confirmed sprinter, the seven furlongs of the Malibu will actually be the farthest that the son of Firing Line has ever run, and with good horses coming from behind that could be his undoing on Monday. 

Still, he is a talented winner of 4-of-7 lifetime on the dirt and with excellent form coming in, it would be no big surprise to see him right there as they hit mid-stretch.


The other member of the Baffert barn in the Malibu, this son of Empire Maker, was actually the preferred stablemate when he faced Taiba in the Santa Anita Derby, but had no answers for him in the stretch run that afternoon. 

He too tried the Kentucky Derby where he prompted a wicked pace before packing up his tent at the head of the stretch. A two-time stakes winner, he was a nice winner in his only previous try at seven furlongs and has a nice record at Santa Anita. 

He made his first start since the Kentucky Derby last month, and should probably be excused for the effort as he bled that day. If he can return to his best form, he could pose the biggest threat to his stablemate on Monday.


The first of two for trainer Dallas Stewart, this Kentucky/New Orleans-based shipper comes into his biggest test yet off an impressive romp going a mile in the slop at Churchill Downs. 

It was one of three nice victories so far in his nine-race career. Unfortunately, he has not been able to find that success when he has stepped up in class before. 

While that last race was very nice, he has done this before and then fallen short when facing better horses. He merits respect, but I think this will once again prove a bit too much for him. 

Straight No Chaser

This son of Speightster is light on experience, having only started three times and once on dirt. This is a difficult spot for a stakes debut, but at the very least he looks to be a horse who should make his presence felt in the first part of the race. 

Clearly talented, there is little doubt that he can run very fast early. Perhaps if Forbidden Kingdom were not in the race, I would give him a better shot to stick around. 

I just don’t see a good scenario for him to get a breather at any point during this race, and for that reason, I cannot recommend him in the Grade 1 Malibu.


One of two from the barn of Peter Miller, he was upset by his stablemate last out in the Zia Park Derby as a prohibitive favorite. 

The disappointing runner-up effort followed a very strong 8 1/2-length allowance win at Santa Anita at a flat mile. A son of Arrogate, he is unbeaten in two starts at Santa Anita and looks well suited to the 7-furlong trip of the Malibu. 

He’s yet to prove he can beat top horses yet, but of the long shots, he looks most likely to pop up and run a big race.

Perfect Flight

The stablemate of Apprehend, he got the better of that one going 8 1/2-furlongs in the Zia Park Derby. 

The Uncle Mo colt likely appreciated the distance more than this stablemate that day and might have more trouble in what will be his first sprint since an unsuccessful career debut more than a year ago. 

Still, his form is pretty solid and he has been competitive in a pair of graded stakes races on the grass this year. He can’t be completely dismissed, but I do prefer others here.

Hoist the Gold

This son of Mineshaft has been well-traveled while making 15 career starts since his debut 17 months ago. 

Although he has only won twice and is 0-for-7 in stakes racing, he has been competitive against good horses of late. 

If the pace is fast, he should be able to close some ground and the 7-furlong distance looks to be ideal for him. This is a tough spot as he travels west for the first time, but he should be considered as a longshot who could rally for a piece of the pie.

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How to Watch the  Malibu Stakes

  • What: Malibu Stakes (Grade 1)
  • Location: Santa Anita
  • Time: Monday, December 26 -- 6:30 pm Eastern time
  • How to Watch: FanDuel TV
  • Purse: $300,000
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Brian Zipse

Horse Racing Betting Analyst

Horse Racing
Betting Picks
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of Communications
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