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ARCADIA, CA – Speedway Stables’ $1.5 million prize Corniche set a contested pace in his two-turn debut and still cruised home an easy winner of Friday’s $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
The American Pharoah is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Corniche receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar this November.
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Corniche broke cleanly from the rail under Mike Smith as the 2/5 heavy favorite and went straight to the lead, where his stablemate Rockefeller soon joined him to press through opening fractions of :23.55, :47.26, and 1:11.91.
Corniche dispatched of Rockefeller and a three-wide Pappacap at the top of the stretch and kicked clear to win the 1 1/16-mile fast dirt route by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:44.75.
“There’s just so much upside to this horse,” Smith said. “That is what’s really exciting about him. When he broke his maiden as impressive as he did, he just gave me that feeling that we weren’t even close to his full potential, and he gave me that feeling today. He’s a big colt and he carries a lot of flesh. As he starts to get even fitter and harder inside, he’s gonna be a force to reckon with.”
Pappacap, winner of the Best Pal Stakes (G2) at Del Mar over the summer, saved second by a 1/2-length over Oviatt Class, who lingered in last for much of the race but produced a strong closing kick in the stretch.
Rockefeller, Flying Drummer, Finneus, and Joker Boy completed the order of finish in the race restricted to 2-year-olds.
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. However, 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, Rockefeller, and Flying Drummer, 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.
Corniche’s victory followed a scintillating debut in a 5 1/2-furlong Del Mar dirt sprint. The Quality Road colt has now earned $222,000.
“That’s what makes a good horse a great horse, a champion, so to speak; not only do they have the speed and the stamina, but they have the mind to go with it, and he’s an extremely intelligent horse,” Smith said. “He just aims to please. If you notice, I was aggressive with him leaving there, and as soon as I put my hands down, he just put his ears up and waited on me. At every pole or as soon as he felt horses behind him, on his hip, he would go just fast enough, kind of playing cat and mouse a little bit. I’m just excited about the upside to him. I think there is a whole lot there.”
Corniche returned $2.80 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show. Pappacap brought back $6.80 to place and $4.20 to show. Oviatt Class paid $3 to show.
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