Making his first start Saturday since a June ankle surgery, the Bob Baffert trainee romped to victory in the Grade 1, US$300,000 Malibu Stakes. Sent off as the 8-5 second choice, Charlatan easily bested 6-5 favourite and fellow 3-year-old Speightstown colt Nashville.
Charlatan covered seven furlongs over the Santa Anita dirt in 1:21.50 under jockey Mike Smith.
“That was just pure brilliance that we witnessed today,” Baffert said.
Charlatan improved to 3-for-4 lifetime and has still never been beaten across the wire. His only loss was a post-race disqualification from victory in a division of Oaklawn Park’s Arkansas Derby (G1).
In Charlatan’s first three races, he took the field gate-to-wire. This time, he had to sit second under Smith as Nashville – 3-for-3 entering the Malibu – went 21.81 and 43.95 for the opening panels.
Coming through the far turn, Charlatan had Nashville directly in his sights. He blew on by the favorite and then opened up a large lead while his five rivals could only chase.
Santa Anita track announcer Frank Mirahmadi pegged Charlatan’s winning margin at “4½ emphatic lengths.” Long shot Express Train ran well to finish second, while Grade 1 winner Collusion Illusion crossed third and Nashville settled for fourth.
Smith rode Charlatan on Saturday for the first time. Drayden Van Dyke got the call this spring at Santa Anita for the colt’s first two victories, while Martin Garcia was aboard for the Arkansas Derby.
“I always thought he was a special horse getting the opportunity to watch him, being that California is his home base,” Smith said. “I’d seen a lot of him and always wanted a chance to ride him. When Bob told me that I got the call, I’ve been on cloud nine ever since.”
A conglomerate of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Frederick Hertich III, John Fielding and Golconda Stables own Charlatan, a US$700,000 yearling purchase.