Even without the king of the hill, today's seventh race at Santa Anita is stakes quality.
El Cielo, who has won nine of 12 starts at about 61/2 furlongs on the track's unique hillside turf course, was one of four scratches from the $60,000 classified allowance race, which originally drew 14 entrants.
A field of 10 remains and two of them, Riviera and Malabar Gold, also have been successful on the Santa Anita turf.
An 8-year-old trained by Bobby Frankel for owner Ed Gann, Riviera has won four of five down the hill and is five for six overall in Arcadia. Idle since Sept. 10, 2000, the son of Kris has run well off a layoff many times before.
In his first U.S. start, back in 1998, he won by five lengths in his first race in five months, then after more than 10 months on the sidelines in 1999, he won here by a little more than a length as the 13-10 favorite.
Malabar Gold, a 5-year-old Unbridled horse owned by B. Wayne Hughes, is the 5-2 favorite on the morning line. Making his first start since last April 16 for trainer Ron Ellis, Malabar Gold has won three of four on the course..
The race also attracted Lake William, who won the Dayjur Handicap on the last day of the Hollywood Park meet on Dec. 17; Auction House, also a Frankel trainee; Morocco, who won by four lengths in his first race at the distance on Oct. 12; Thyer's, a Brazilian horse who won five of seven on the turf in his native land but will be making his first start for trainer Bob Baffert, and King Slayer, who has been 1-2-3 in nine of 10 on the course.
Race of the day: Eddie Eddie, a 4-year-old Bertrando gelding who broke his maiden easily on Dec. 30, is the 5-2 favorite as he tries to stretch his speed around two turns in today's fifth. The 7-2 second choice is Vixen Storm, who was third in the California Cup Classic.
Who's hot: Trainer Mike Machowsky. Before Wednesday, he had won with four of his first 10 starters at the meet.
Who's not: WWW Dot Com. The 5-year-old Siyah Kalem mare, who went 0 for 14 in 2001 and is one for 32 in her career, figures to begin the new year with another loss in today's eighth at Golden Gate Fields.
Exotically speaking: A pick three, using Eddie Eddie and Vixen Storm in the fifth, Odd Testamony, Clay Time and Watch For Smoke in the sixth, Riviera and Malabar Gold in the seventh.
Winners: Previous day/meet total: 2/43. Money: Previous day/meet total: $10.20/$274.60. Total money bet: $274.