2022 Malibu Stakes Odds & Betting Prediction

Is class enough? The dual G1 winner Taiba, a potent force over a mile-eighth and more, has that question to answer in the G1 2022 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Monday, when he cuts back to seven furlongs in a fascinating examination of his versatility.

Malibu Stakes

G1, $300,000, 7f dirt, 3yo, 3.39pm PT

There’s still plenty to unwrap on the day after Christmas as Santa Anita celebrates the opening day of its winter/spring meet, with the Malibu as the marquee event on a stakes-heavy schedule and a star name on the ticket.

The main question facing bettors is not whether Taiba is the best horse in the race – he is, by some way – but whether he is the best seven-furlong horse in the race, and that is far harder to answer.

His class edge is unarguable, with wins in the G1 Santa Anita Derby and G1 Pennsylvania Derby, both over a mile-eighth, added to runner-up spot in the mile-eighth G1 Haskell and third place in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic over ten furlongs, when he was only a half-length behind runner-up Olympiad. Taiba is one of the best three-year-olds in the country, lording it over today’s rivals, but there’s doubt about whether he can make it pay over two, three furlongs shorter than his obvious best.

He was an easy winner on debut here over six furlongs but will be out of his comfort zone now, and although he’ll have plenty of pace to run at, which suits his stalking style, can he produce the necessary kick?

Taiba’s barnmate Messier was runner-up in the G1 Santa Anita Derby, beaten two and a quarter lengths, but on his return from a six-month layoff in an allowance optional claimer at Keeneland he led early, bled and was walked off. On that basis he’s impossible to like.

A far more interesting contender is Forbidden Kingdom, who led all the way to win the G2 San Vicente over course and distance in January and was hugely impressive when doing the same in the G2 San Felipe here over a mile-sixteenth in March. He blew out in the SA Derby behind Taiba and Messier, but had serious breathing issues post-race and can be easily forgiven.

He was beaten less than a length in a Del Mar AOC over six furlongs on his last start, and back at a track he appreciates – on his third start following a layoff – should be ready to rumble from his inside post. Speed is his main weapon and that may prove crucial.

The opposition haven’t shown they belong at this level. Nakatomi is stretching out to seven furlongs for the first time and is zero-for-two at Graded level; Perfect Flight ran a career-best when winning a stakes at little Zia Park, beating barnmate Apprehend by two and three-quarter lengths, but faces a huge class hike and has never won over shorter than a mile-sixteenth; Hoist The Gold is riding an eight-race losing streak and is zero-for-seven in stakes.

2022 Malibu Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

Forbidden KingdomJuan J. Hernandez+300
MessierJohn R. Velazquez+600
ApprehendRamon A. Vazquez+800
NakatomiTyler Gaffalione+1000
Hoist the GoldJoel Rosario+1200
TaibaMike E. Smith+120
Perfect FlightRicardo Santana, Jr.+1200
StravaFlavien Prat+1500
Straight No ChaserEdwin A. Maldonado+2000

Taiba has a substantial class edge but looks vulnerable back sprinting, so the speedy G2 winner FORBIDDEN KINGDOM is the choice to make his pace count.

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