The grade 1 Malibu Stakes on opening day at Santa Anita has long been a showcase for speedy three year olds. This 2021 edition offers up more of the same, but one of the entrants may view it as a little more than just a chance to display his talent.
Dr. Schivel comes into this race with a decorated resume. All four of his starts in 2021 have been against older horses. Wins in the grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar and the grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championships featured both his versatility and remarkable turn of foot.
“He has shown us all he is a very special horse”, says trainer Mark Glatt. “We threw him in with older horses every time out this year and he has responded extremely well. He’s just very consistent which is the mark of good horses.”
Three wins and a second in four starts this year has demonstrated the talent of Glatt’s charge. His lone defeat came on the biggest of stages when he was beaten by less than a flaring nostril in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Rating just off a torrid early pace (21.91 opening quarter mile, 44.11 half mile), the Dr. surgically dissected the front runners at the top of the stretch. Assuming command as the wire drew ever closer, it looked as if a winning prescription had been written. Then out of the clouds came Aloha West. As the two speedsters hit the wire together in the closest finish of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup, the photo went West as he was determined to be the victor.
Losing the biggest race of his life in the final inches of a six furlong fight was certainly tough to swallow. The accomplished Southern California conditioner, however, is trying to keep things in perspective.
“He put up a winning effort in the biggest race of his life”, says Glatt, who is now in his 28th year as a trainer. “From the quarter pole home he looked like a winner. The result was heartbreaking, but there is not much we can do about it now.”
Glatt is in fact doing something about it. He is letting his prized pupil do what he does best, run. Originated back in 1952, the Malibu gives Dr. Schivel a golden opportunity. For the first time this year he runs against only three-year olds with eyes on some year-end honors. In what has been a wide-open Sprint division, this son of Violence has been a model of a race horse. If he can produce as he has done throughout 2021, he should be under strong consideration for Eclipse Award Sprint Champion.
“The timing of this race fits perfectly into our program”, says Glatt. “The Malibu is a very prestigious race that we hope will serve as a springboard to a 2022 campaign. He has been doing great and has not missed a beat since the Breeders’ Cup. Winning races like this is never easy and we think if things go the way we want he absolutely could be named as Sprint champion.”
The Malibu is part of a blockbuster opening day program on December 26 at Santa Anita that will feature six graded stakes races.