Monday, December 26, 2022

Gun Runner’s brilliant 3-year-old colt Taiba staked his claim for championship honors with a dominating win in the $300,000 Malibu S. (G1) on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita Park.

Taiba now has Grade 1 wins in the Pennsylvania Derby and Santa Anita Derby, as well as a very narrow loss in the Haskell Inv. (G1) on his 2022 resume. His overall mark now stands at 4-1-1 in seven starts, with earnings of $1,956,200.

Taiba is one of Gun Runner’s four Grade 1 winners in 2022. Gun Runner was far and away the leading Second-Crop Sire of 2022 and was fifth on the General Sire list with over $14.6 million in progeny earnings.

Taiba, who was making his first one-turn start since his debut in March, was hustled out of the gate by Mike Smith and chased Forbidden Kingdom though a half-mile in :44.38. He confronted the front-runner at the top of the stretch, and after a tussle with him and Straight No Chaser, Taiba strode away powerfully in the final furlong to win by 4 ¼-lengths in 1:21.75 for the seven furlongs.

“At the top of the stretch, it almost looks like he’s gutted,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “But that’s the way he is. He’s very deceiving. If you watch him in the mornings, he’ll never get a clocker’s eye. He’ll surprise you in the afternoon.”

“He reminds me of his sire, Gun Runner,” Baffert added.

Baffert trains Taiba for Amr Zedan’s Zedan Racing Stables, who bought the colt for $1.7 million at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-year-old Sale.

Taiba was bred by Bruce Ryan and is out of Needmore Flattery, who was a dominant force on the Ohio circuit, winning 14 stakes over her career.