Santa Anita plays host to the $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes on Friday, which is an automatic qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Headlining the field is promising Bob Baffert-trained Rockefeller, who did the job nicely on debut at Del Mar.
It’s an open field, as most juvenile contests are, so horse racing betting odds are generous.
Rockefeller Living up to Price Tag
The 2-year-old son of Medaglia D’oro looked excellent when scoring on debut, and he’s doing his best to recoup the money connections spent.
He was a $750,000 Keeneland yearling, and we’re not surprised he has come for support in betting markets. Trainer Bob Baffert is a five-time winner of the American Pharoah Stakes, and his record in Grade I juvenile races is incredible.
There is always a fair amount of unknown when it comes to age-group racing, but Rockefeller looks to have a bright future. His winning time at Del Mar wasn’t anything special, going 1:11.18 for six furlongs, but he led the field and never looked like being beaten.
Corniche (outside, 5F: 1:00.00 H) working this morning in company with Rockefeller (inside, 5F: 59.80 H). pic.twitter.com/3bhgIHEKh0
— Ernie Belmonte (@ErnieBPhoto93) September 25, 2021
Showing excellent gate speed would go a long way to winning the American Pharoah Stakes, so he’s on our radar. However, he’s not the current favorite. Stablemate Corniche has taken most of the money.
Jockey Mike Smith partnered with Corniche, who ran a quick time on debut at Del Mar.
“He’s come with a lot of high expectations and high hopes,” Smith told BloodHorse. “He passed all that with flying colors. He ran a tremendous race.”
Baffert was pleased with his debut effort following the race.
“I wasn’t surprised, I expected it,” Baffert said. “He was flying early and he kept flying late. The Futurity was coming up a little too quick for him, but we’re excited about him like we are about several others. This is a really good group of 2-year-olds.”
The sportsbook has Corniche at 6-5 in betting markets, so there has been plenty of betting support.
Oviatt Class Has Class
The 2-year-old didn’t fire straight out of the gates when finishing fifth at Santa Anita followed by a third at Del Mar, but he showed his class last time out.
He was forced to make a sustained run at Del Mar, but he caught Flying Drummer and Barossa with ease in the straight. It was a tough effort over the mile, so he demands respect at this level.
Having had three runs is good for his fitness levels, which could give him the edge over the one-race types. The son of Bernardini will only be stronger for the run, and betting online markets are respecting his chances.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see money come for Oviatt Class on race day.
Finneus Has Grade I Experience
It would be foolish to overlook the chances of Finneus, who could run at a value price.
The son of Stay Thirsty finished third on debut before breaking his maiden status at Santa Anita in June. Connections then took him to the Grade II Best Pal where he ran second behind race-rival Pappacap.
That form was franked when he finished second in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity behind Pinehurst, so he’s a colt with plenty of upside.
There is no reason why the Del Mar Futurity wouldn’t be a good form guide for the American Pharoah Stakes, so include Finneus in selections.
— Stakes Winners 🏆 (@StakesWinners) August 11, 2021
By virtue of his form, we must also include Pappacap. The son of Gun Runner won the Best Pal before running fourth in the Del Mar Futurity, so he has been around the best age-group runners throughout his career.
They were no match for Pinehurst, who had the clear class edge, but Pappacap and Finneus battled strongly. They should be right in the mix at Santa Anita.