Speed Boat Beach went head-and-head with stablemate Hejazi through the first four furlongs before drawing clear in the stretch to win the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita Park on Dec. 26. The Florida-bred colt lived up to his 8-5 favoritism in winning the $300,000 Malibu against six other 3-years-old going seven furlongs.

Ridden from post three by Flavien Prat, Speed Boat Beach jumped out to an early lead but was quickly joined by 2-1 second choice Hejazi and jockey Juan Hernandez on the outside with 65-1 longshot Sharp Aza Tack also applying pressure from between those two.

Speed Boat Beach and Hejazi separated from the pack down the backstretch to finish the quarter-mile in :22.21 on the fast track as Sharp Aza Tack and Florida-bred Damon’s Mound raced together in third just behind the top two. Speed Boat Beach tried to put away Hejazi around the far turn but could not shake free until the top of the stretch when he began to draw clear under right-handed urging from Prat.

Speed Boat Beach finished a length-and-a-half ahead of Hejazi in second in a final time of 1:21.70. Giant Mischief was three lengths farther back in third followed by Florida-bred Damon’s Mound, Raise Cain, Fort Bragg and Sharp Aza Tack. Matanzas Creek was scratched.

“He was really sharp early,” Prat said of Speed Boat Beach. “I got him to relax and we took a little breather. Around the turn, he really went well. He didn’t mind being on the inside. He was really in a good rhythm today.”

Both Speed Boat Beach and Hejazi are trained by Bob Baffert, who also saddled Fort Bragg.

“His issue has always been that he is very aggressive,” Baffert said of Speed Boat Beach. “He is aggressive in the mornings and he’s aggressive in his races. We’ve been schooling him and getting him to relax.

“Prat worked him [five furlongs in :59.80 on Dec. 18] and actually went really well with Prat, who got him to come off the bit a little bit.

“Speed Boat Beach has always shown he is something special and hopefully he can build from this.”

Speed Boat Beach paid $5.20 to win.

It was the first victory for Speed Boat Beach since winning the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille going a mile on the turf in December of 2022. Baffert then rested Speed Boat Beach for 10 months before bringing him back to finish second, just a head shy of Dr. Schivel in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Sept. 30.

In his next start in the Grade 1 Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Speed Boat Beach led until mid-stretch but finished fourth, three-lengths behind winner Elite Power. That was the second appearance in a Breeders’ Cup for Speed Boat Beach after he finished out of the money in the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint won by Mischief Magic (Ire) at Keeneland in November of 2022.

Speed Boat Beach is one of 59 Florida-breds with more than one start in a Breeders’ Cup race.

Speed Boat Beach has now won four of seven career starts with one second while earning $498,000 for owners Michael E. Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, who purchased him for $200,000 at the 2022 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March Sale where he was consigned by Really and Truly Thoroughbreds. He also sold at OBS for $12,000 as a yearling when Ruben M. Sanchez selected him out of the Stuart Morris consignment at the 2021 October Yearling Sale.

Bred by Richard Heysek’s Caperlane Farm in Williston, Fla., Speed Boat Beach is by Bayern and was the first foal out of Sophia Mia, by Pioneerof The Nile. He is the only winner from four foals out of Sophia Mia, who has an unraced 2-year-old filly, Midnight Snack, by Distorted Humor; a yearling filly by Volatile; and a weanling filly by Army Mule. She was bred to Not This Time in 2023.

“It feels fantastic. As a small breeder you dream of days like that,” Heysek said. “I couldn’t be happier and more proud of the horse. As a small breeder, sometimes it feels like David versus Goliath and it’s nice to see David win [a Grade 1].”

Speed Boat Beach is the first Florida-bred winner of the Malibu since Southern Halo in 2003. Other Florida-bred winners (since 1976) of the traditional Santa Anita opening day affair include Star of the Crop (1992), On the Line (1987), Precisionist (1984), Time to Explode (1983) and Island Whirl (1982).