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Charlatan ends bumpy year with Grade 1 win in California

Opening day of horse racing at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia,

Arcadia, CA - December 26: Jockey Mike Smith riding Charlatan wins the Malibu Stakes (grade 1) during opening day of horse racing at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia on Saturday, December 26, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

MediaNews Group via Getty Images

ARCADIA, Calif. -- Charlatan tracked favorite Nashville to the quarter pole and then drew off to a 4 1/2-length victory in the $300,000 Malibu Stakes on opening day of Santa Anita’s 84th winter meet.

Ridden for the first time by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Charlatan ran seven furlongs in 1:21.50. Trained by fellow Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the chestnut colt had been idle since May 2.

Charlatan paid $5.20, $3.60 and $2.60 as the 8-5 second choice.

It was the first loss for Nashville, who had won his first three starts by a combined 24 3/4 lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The colt finished fourth behind Charlatan, beaten 8 1/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite.

“There was a really good horse he was chasing,” Baffert said. “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.”

Charlatan also came into Saturday’s Grade 1 race unbeaten in three starts. However, his most recent victory in a division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2 resulted in a disqualification because of a medication violation. The colt has three wins in four starts and career earnings of $247,200.

Express Train returned $13.40 and $6 at 16-1 odds. Collusion Illusion was a half-length back in third and paid $3 to show at 10-1.

Santa Anita set an opening day wagering record of $23,003,159, eclipsing the mark of $20,491,016 bet on 11 races on Dec. 26, 2018.

Saturday’s card featured 11 races, including six stakes, and was run without fans. Nearly all of the betting was done via advance-deposit platforms and a small number of satellite locations that have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic.