We're kicking off a new year of racing with Opening Day at Santa Anita. It was a beautiful day with 35,088 fans in attendance with dominating victories and jockey Mike Smith scoring his 217th win, one more than Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey. Here's your weekend stakes update.
$300,000 Runhappy Malibu Stakes (G1)
Smith and OMAHA BEACH went for a nice cruise in the Malibu starting out stalking the pace in fourth four and a half lengths behind MUCH BETTER who led the field. They ran the first half-mile in :45.02 and suddenly OMAHA BEACH was only a half-length back and ready to run his route. He surged ahead to take the lead in the stretch but under no apparent rush. Mike just rode quietly and OMAHA BEACH ran relaxed opening up the distance to a one and half-length advantage and then coasting to under the wire 2 3/4 lengths ahead. ROADSTER did rally from last, but could not catch up to the leader to even threaten him, but did manage to finish second with MANNY WAH 2 3/4 lengths back in third.
$301,404 La Brea Stakes (G1)
BELLAFINA took charge out of the gates to take the lead and set the pace with fast fractions of :21.70 and :44.41. HARD NOT TO LOVE rallied from the back of the nine-horse field in her graded stakes debut with three furlongs to go. She ran down the outside off the turn and met up with BELLAFINA at the sixteenth pole stealing the wire from her and taking the win. While MOTHER MOTHER had rallied she was no match and settled for third. The win gave Mike Smith his 216th score, tying the all-time record with Jerry Bailey. Later in the day, OMAHA BEACH would give him his record-breaking 217th win.
$301,053 American Oaks (G1T)
LADY PRANCEALOT sat in sixth early while SO MUCH HAPPY set the pace in the 1 1/4 mile turf race. VIBRANCE took the lead briefly, but it was short-lived. MUCHO UNUSUAL stalked in fourth and took command with an eighth of a mile remaining. LADY PRANCEALOT rallied on the inside, catching the leader in the final sixteenth and inched by at the wire to steal the win in the final 50 yards. MUCHO UNUSUAL took second 1 1/2 lengths back followed by PRETTY POINT in third.
$202,106 Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes (G2T)
MO FORZA sat back in ninth in the field of eleven as the pacesetter ran fast fractions with an opening quarter of :22.38. He moved to four wide and took the lead mid-stretch and crossed the wire in 1:34.26. ORIGINAIRE closed quickly in second while NEPTUNE STORM, the 3-1 favorite, held on for third one and a half lengths back. The win was the fourth in a row for MO FORZA and may now be headed to the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1T).
$200,702 San Antonio Stakes (G2)
After a six-month layoff, GIFT BOX entered the gates for the 1 1/16 mile San Antonio Stakes and never looked back. He cruised along with fractions of :23.95 and :47.33. No one from the rear attempted a charge except for KING ABNER who took a run as they approached the quarter pole, but GIFT BOX pulled away to take his win with ease and a final time of 1:42.73. KING ABNER finished second 3 3/4 lengths ahead of MIDCOURT, the 2-1 second choice, who finished third in a strung-out field.