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Saturday, December 29
Ahoy - it's Mizzen Mast!

ARCADIA, Calif. - Christmas has come all year long for trainer Bobby Frankel, so why should the day after Christmas have been any different?

Frankel, the nation's runaway leader in Grade 1 stakes wins this year, picked up his 18th of 2001 on Wednesday when Mizzen Mast closed sharply to take the $200,000 Malibu Stakes on Santa Anita's opening day.

Mizzen Mast, ridden by jockey Kent Desormeaux, was making his first start on dirt after nine previous races on turf. He raced in traffic down the backstretch and on the turn, then was wheeled out at the top of the stretch. He produced a sharp turn of foot that carried him to the wire 2 1/2 lengths in front of Eastern invader Giant Gentleman, who finished a neck in front of late-running I Love Silver, the 5-2 second choice. Early Flyer, the 2-1 favorite, was eighth in the field of 13.

"I thought I had no chance being back so far," Frankel said. "Never did I expect him to make that kind of move."

Mizzen Mast covered seven furlongs on the fast main track in 1:22.13 for his fourth victory in 10 starts. Mizzen Mast paid $16 to win. A 3-year-old son of Cozzene and the Graustark mare Kinema, he was bred and is owned by Saudi Arabian Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms.

This was the fourth start in the United States for Mizzen Mast, whose only previous victory in this country came in the restricted Bien Bien Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 7. He was 10th in the Secretariat Stakes, and ninth in the Del Mar Derby, in his first two starts in this country.

The opening-day card was held nine days after the closing day at Hollywood Park's fall meeting - the longest break on the Southern California circuit in 20 years. There were large fields throughout the card, including an overflow field in the Malibu.

Santa Anita could not have ordered up more perfect weather. The high temperature was 70 degrees, and the clear skies offered a magnificent view of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. A crowd estimated at 28,000 turned out, and they were serenaded by mariachi bands when they arrived, and by the regal tones of Trevor Denman when the races were run. The day was not without its glitches; the infield timer failed to work,

The undercard featured two intriguing races for 2-year-olds, a maiden race and an allowance race, both at six furlongs, along with the return of jockey Pat Valenzuela, riding for the first time since February 2000.

Valenzuela received a boisterous cheer from the fans lining the walkway to the paddock as he strode there from the jockeys' room for the day's fourth race. Always known for his ability to leave the gate sharply, Valenzuela showed no signs of rust in the race, busting out of the gate alertly with 17-1 shot Fall for Me.

Fall for Me chased Chaos N Confusion for the final quarter-mile, but could not catch him and had to settle for second, beaten by one length. Chaos N Confusion, a Bob Baffert-trained son of Boston Harbor owned by Mike Pegram, was timed in an ordinary 1:10.86, far slower than the allowance race run a half-hour earlier.

In that allowance race, the day's third, the comebacking Werblin, at 17-1, outsprinted 12-1 shot Royal Moro in a race in which overlooked longshots beat overbet favorites.

Werblin prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths, with Royal Moro 4 1/2 lengths clear of third-place Bringem Jung. Pelirrojo (4-1) was fourth, with Onthedeanslist (5-2) fifth and 7-5 favorite Popular seventh in the field of eight.

Werblin, with Corey Nakatani riding, stalked pacesetting Royal Moro through fractions of 21.86 seconds and 44.65 for the first half-mile, before going on to win in a snappy 1:09.04. He paid $37 to win.

Eduardo Inda, who trains Werblin for owners Aaron and Marie Jones, said he would look for a two-turn race for the next start for the son of Unbridled's Song. "He's a nice colt," Inda said. "We need to stretch him out now."

Werblin, named for the late sports impresario Sonny Werblin, had won his only previous start, against maidens at Hollywood Park on July 1. He was scratched by jockey Chris McCarron in the post parade before Del Mar's Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 15.

"He must have stepped on a rock in the post parade. I couldn't take him to the track for two weeks afterwards," Inda said. "He was a little off in his left front foot. I wanted to run him at Hollywood Park's fall meeting, but the races I wanted to run him in wouldn't fill."

Additional reporting by Steve Andersen.

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