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American Pharoah Preview: Corniche Stretches Out
Corniche (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

American Pharoah Preview: Corniche Stretches Out

ARCADIA, CA – Like several of his rivals, runaway debut winner Corniche stretches out to two turns for the first time in Friday’s $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.

The American Pharoah is a 1 1/16-mile dirt route restricted to 2-year-olds that serves as the penultimate event on a 9-race card with a local post time of 4:38 PM. The race is also a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, awarding an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar this November.

Additionally, the American Pharoah is part of the Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby prep race season that awards 10 points to the winner, 4 for second, 2 for third, and 1 for fourth.

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Here’s a look at the full field for the American Pharoah:

1. Corniche 6/5 – Purchased for $1.5 million in April, he backed up both his price tag and his stellar workout report by easily winning a 5 1/2-furlong Del Mar dirt sprint while looking like he could easily handle two turns. His classy pedigree backs that up; sire Quality Road produces 17% dirt route winners and dam Wasted Tears was a 6-time graded turf route stakes winner. Mike Smith keeps the mount.

2. Flying Drummer 10/1 – This 2-start maiden set a blistering contested early pace in a 2-turn dirt mile at Del Mar last time out and shook clear but was no match for a rallying rival with a prior two-turn try. A son of red-hot sire Gun Runner out of a graded stakes-placed dirt sprinting dam, he now gets John Velazquez, regular rider for Breeders’ Cup champion Gamine (who has the same owner and trainer).

3. Finneus 12/1 – He broke his maiden at second asking while dropping down to face fellow California-breds, then finished second in both the 6-furlong Best Pal Stakes (G2) and the 7-furlong Del Mar Futurity (G1). The good news is that he hasn’t looked intimidated against open company and is bred to handle two turns, but the bad news is that he was more than 4 lengths behind the winner in both stakes.

4. Oviatt Class 3/1 – He broke his maiden at third asking last time out despite steadying early and dropping back, using an explosive kick to split foes in the far turn and draw off in the stretch. Trainer Keith Desormeaux debuted him on turf in June because he believed this horse was a surefire router and that was the only option available at that time. Count on him to come motoring up in the stretch.

5. Joker Boy 15/1 – His two-turn debut coincides with his first test against open company after he won a pair of starts against California-breds, including the 6-furlong I’m Smokin Stakes last time out. While his older siblings have won 14 of 91 (15%) route attempts and his damsire Dixieland Band was also damsire of two Kentucky Derby winners, his sire and dam were most effective when sprinting.

6. Rockefeller 3/1 – He was one of the most impressive debut winners at the Del Mar summer meet when he cruised home to win a 6-furlong sprint by a geared-down 2 1/4 lengths despite drawing the rail. Now with a better outside draw and an upgrade to the circuit’s top jockey Flavien Prat, this $750k yearling out of a Grade 1 dirt sprint winner dirt looks well-equipped to handle this two-turn test.

7. Pappacap 8/1 – He won 2 straight to start his career, first a 5-furlong Gulfstream Park sprint and then the Best Pal, but he was buried inside early during the Del Mar Futurity and couldn’t get a clean run. His sire Gun Runner was a multiple Grade 1 dirt route winner and his dam won a pair of turf routes with a Grade 3 placing, so an outside draw and a new trip to navigate could return him to form.

Churchill Downs Incorporated announced September 10 that points from any race earned in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series will not be awarded to any horse trained by any individual who is suspended from racing in the 2022 Kentucky Derby (G1) or any trainer directly or indirectly employed, supervised, or advised by a suspended trainer. This rule applies to Corniche, Flying Drummer, and Rockefeller, all trained by Bob Baffert, who was suspended from the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks for 2 years following Medina Spirit’s confirmed drug violation.

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