November 30, 2023

Charlatan impressive in Malibu return

Charlatan and jockey Mike Smith win the Malibu Stakes © BENOIT PHOTO

Charlatan came back running from almost an eight-month layoff in Saturday’s $300,000 Malibu S. (G1) at Santa Anita, offering a devastating kick in upper stretch to seize a commanding advantage in the 7-furlong race for 3-year-olds. The well-built chestnut was taken under wraps by Mike Smith in the latter stages, scoring by 4 1/2 lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

“First of all my hat’s off to Bob and his whole crew to get this horse ready off an eight-month layoff,” said Smith, who was up for the first time in Charlatan’s fourth career start. “To run against these types of horses was a feat itself, but I always thought he was a special horse…When Bob told me I got the call, man I’ve been kind of on cloud nine ever since.

“He is extremely special.”

Charlatan has finished first by a combined 26 1/4 lengths in his first four starts, but he was disqualified from a six-length tally in his stakes debut, the first division of the Arkansas Derby (G1) in early May, due to a post-race test. He was sidelined by a minor setback afterwards, returning to the worktab in late October.

Off as the 8-5 second choice among six 3-year-olds, Charlatan tracked about a length back in second as 13-10 favorite Nashville established fractions in :21.81 and :43.95. He made his move leaving the far turn, overhauling Nashville with about a quarter-mile remaining, and quickly drew clear to an overwhelming lead.

Charlatan finished up in 1:21.50, more than a second faster than 3-year-old filly counterparts in the La Brea S. (G1) two races earlier. He is campaigned by SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Frederick Hertrich III, John Fielding, and Golconda Stables.

“I told Mike, ‘you know I can only get him so ready, I didn’t want to overdo it with him, it is early in the year and all, so I’m counting on his class to get him there he’s probably gonna need this race,’” Baffert said. “You know but those really good ones like him, they just  make my job a whole lot easier. You get them ready to a certain point, and then he just took over himself.

“That was just pure, pure brilliance that we witnessed today. They were rolling early, there was a really good horse he was chasing.  With what this horse has been through, I’m just happy for the whole team and everybody involved, to show he is a really special horse. Hopefully we will have a good (2021) with him.”

Express Train, who was last after the opening quarter-mile, rallied to be a non-threatening second at 16-1 odds, a half-length better than 10-1 Collusion Illusion in third. It was another 3 1/4 lengths to fourth-placer Nashville, who sustained his first career defeat. Independence Hall and Thousand Words completed the order.

By Speightstown, Charlatan increased his career earnings to $247,200. He romped when making his career debut in mid-February, and came back a month later to capture an entry-level allowance by 10 lengths.

Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet, Charlatan was purchased for $750,000 as a yearling at the 2018 Keeneland September sale. His dam, the Grade 2-winning Quiet American mare Authenticity, finished second in three Grade 1 events and third in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). She is also the dam of restricted stakes winner Hanalei Moon.