Malibu Stakes (Santa Anita) Predictions, Odds & Picks

If you're playing only to win, go with my top value pick Independence Hall (6/1)

Post Position and Odds – Malibu Stakes

Check out our predictions and odds for the 2020 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita!

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
1 COLLUSION ILLUSION 6/1
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F Prat M Glatt
2 THOUSAND WORDS 8/1
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J Velazquez B Baffert
3 NASHVILLE 8/5
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R Santana Jr. S Asmussen
4 CHARLATAN 7/5
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M Smith B Baffert
5 EXPRESS TRAIN 15/1
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J J Hernandez J Shirreffs
6 INDEPENDENCE HALL 6/1
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J Rosario M McCarthy

Best Bets for the Malibu Stakes

Here are my plays ($30 in total)

$30 Win – Independence Hall = $30

Top Value Pick:

Independence Hall (6/1)

Two of the fastest horses in the nation will lock horns on opening day at Santa Anita as Charlatan and Nashville lead a compact but talented field of six 3-year-old males ready for Saturday’s Grade 1 Malibu Stakes.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Charlatan was an overpowering winner of his first three career starts, including the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in early May. An injury kept the son of Speightstown off the Triple Crown trail, but he has been working well for his return in Saturday’s 7-furlong test. His early speed will be tested by a colt coming from Kentucky who may have even more early foot.

Like Charlatan, Nashville has also been untouchable in three career starts, but he did not begin his career until September when he aired in a sloppy maiden race at Saratoga. Two more impressive sprint victories at Keeneland followed, including a track record performance in winning the Perryville Stakes last time. The Malibu will be his graded stakes debut.

Of the rest, there are very good options if the favorites burn each other out early. Independence Hall won a pair of stakes races early in his career and was a handy winner of a Del Mar allowance in his return to the races last month; Thousand Words, also trained by Baffert, was well back in the Preakness last time, but is a three-time stakes winner in his eight-lifetime starts; and Collusion Illusion has already won three graded stakes races at sprint distances in his career.

How to Watch the Malibu Stakes

Malibu Stakes Information
What Malibu Stakes (Grade 1)
Where Santa Anita
When Saturday, December 26 — 6:51 pm est
How to Watch TVG
Purse $300,000

Race Analysis

Charlatan

As highly regarded as he was before an injury kept him away from the races for several months, it’s almost hard to imagine that he will not be favored in his return to the races. It might happen on Saturday, though, as taking on the early speed of Nashville might be among the most difficult tasks in American racing right now. Still, he has been training great for his return to the races, and it’s impossible to forget how impressive he was to begin his career. Fresh and ready for Saturday’s big test, I believe his proven class may actually get the best of Nashville in the Malibu, but if he does, he may still face strong challenges late.

Nashville

Though he has only been around for a few months, it would be no stretch to believe that he is the fastest horse in the country. That’s how good he has been in his first three career starts. Blazing and brazen early, he tears out the heart of his competition in the opening furlongs and then just keeps going. Having said that, he has found a very difficult spot in his first career graded stakes race. Charlatan will be an extremely difficult early tough foe as he stretches out to 7 furlongs and runs in the West for the first time. It seems like a lot to overcome, but he may be special enough to get the job done. At the odds, though, I am willing to try to beat him in this spot.

Independence Hall

This time last year, Independence Hall was the most highly regarded juvenile colt in the East after a romping victory in the Nashua Stakes. Things didn’t quite work out for him early on the Kentucky Derby trail, but there can be little doubt that the son of Constitution has serious talent. Perhaps running one-turn will be the key to his success as he rejoins the fray of Grade 1 racing. Now based in California and trained by Mike McCarthy, his return win after an eight-month layoff should be perfect prep for the Malibu. Is he good enough to beat the top two? That is the question, but if they go at it early, it should give him an opportunity to show just how good he is.

Collusion Illusion

This son of Twirling Candy appeared to be on the fast track to becoming one of the top young sprinters in the nation when he scored in back-to-back graded stake sprints this summer. His stock has since fallen just a bit with a pair of losses against older horses. A decent third in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship was followed by a disappointing effort when well back in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland. Things don’t get easier here, but back in Southern California, he certainly could bounce back. He should sit a good trip behind the top two and should be respected.

Thousand Words

Away from the Preakness, the other Baffert runner has proven to be a classy runner over the past two seasons. Having said that he seems like more of a grinder than a horse who can rally into a very fast sprint. Given the talent in this field, this may turn out to be more of a prep for him for longer races rather than a legitimate place for him to earn his first Grade 1 victory. He is a nice horse, but I like others better.

Express Train

Trained by John Shirreffs, this son of Union Rags enters the Malibu off a failed attempt on the turf in the Twilight Derby. Before that, though, he turned in a pair of very promising efforts on the main track to begin his sophomore season. All the others in the field certainly have accomplished more, but he looks to have the potential to be a very good horse. He is a longshot with a chance to rally into the exotics.

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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

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.

Email: [email protected]