Taiba, a two-time Grade 1 winner and one of the top 3-year-old males of his class, will aim to close out his 2022 campaign on a high note in the Malibu Stakes (G1) on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita Park for owner Zedan Racing and trainer Bob Baffert.
The son of Gun Runner has been one of the most consistent horses among this year’s sophomores, in the money for five of his six starts, with all but his debut win coming against Grade 1 competition.
He enters the Malibu off a third-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland, where he posted a career-best 110 Beyer Speed Figure and outfinished all other 3-year-olds in the field, including Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Rich Strike.
“He’s all racehorse,” Baffert said. “He reminds me a lot of his sire, Gun Runner. Very well put together, beautiful conformation, great temperament, a powerful horse, and sort of a smaller version of Justify.
“He broke his maiden very impressively and won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in just his second start,” the trainer continued. “He was the co-favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but it was just a bit too much, too soon. He ran a great race in the Haskell (G1) and another big race in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). I thought he was the best 3-year-old all year long. Very proud of his effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This horse will get even better with age.”
If Taiba is successful in the Malibu, he will be the only North American-based 3-year-old colt to notch three Grade 1 victories this season.
After breaking his maiden on debut by 7 ½ lengths and posting a 103 Beyer, Taiba stepped up in class to test the Santa Anita Derby, and he passed with flying colors, winning by 2 ¼ lengths ahead of multiple Grade 3 winner Messier, who was himself another 10 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher.
Taiba finished second by a head in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) off a track record time, then he shipped east again to topple a stacked field in the Pennsylvania Derby. In that race, he outkicked Grade 1 winner Zandon by three lengths and defeated fellow Grade 1 winners Cyberknife and White Abarrio, all while earning a 108 Beyer.
His efforts in the Pennsylvania Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic give Taiba two of the top three Beyer figures earned by a 3-year-old this season going a distance greater than a mile.
Taiba has been working toward the Malibu at Santa Anita Park, where he most recently turned in a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.80 on Nov. 27.
“We feel he has a lot of improvement left in him,” said Gary Young, Amr Zedan’s racing manager. “We have a lot of confidence in this horse. The Malibu provides a good bridge between the Breeders’ Cup and next year’s Saudi Cup. His recent work this past weekend was very strong and we believe he’ll be sharp in the Malibu. The long-term goal is to get him back to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at the end of next year.”
Owner Amr Zedan added, “We are very proud of all Taiba has accomplished so far. We fell in love with this colt at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale and were willing to pay a lot of money for him as two-year-old. He’s lived up to our expectations and seems to be getting better and better. We would be thrilled and honored if he were to win an Eclipse Award for his tremendous efforts.”