09/25/2014 12:56PM

Repeat of last puts American Pharoah in winner's circle

Shigeki Kikkawa
American Pharoah stretches out from the seven furlongs of the Del Mar Futurity (above) to 1 1/16 miles in the FrontRunner.

ARCADIA, Calif. – American Pharoah’s first race was too poor to be true. Was his second race too good to be believed?

That will have to be the hope of the connections of the nine 2-year-olds lined up to face him in the Grade 1, $300,000 FrontRunner Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita, because if American Pharoah runs back to his Del Mar Futurity, everyone else will be running for second.

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American Pharoah was highly touted before his first race but finished a distant fifth in the fastest maiden race of the meet at Del Mar. He trained out of that race just as well as he went into it, so he was given a chance to redeem himself in the Del Mar Futurity. He did that and more, cruising to a 4 3/4-length victory and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 101, making him one of the elite contenders for the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 2 Lord Nelson and No. 7 American Pharoah. Trainer Bob Baffert is 19-7-4-2 with a $3.00 ROI over the past five years with 2-year-olds moving from synthetic to dirt and stretching from sprints to routes. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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“He came out of his last race in good shape,” trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday. “His first race, he was misbehaving. Since that race, we’ve done a lot of schooling, and he’s been a real professional. He’s become very manageable.”

The FrontRunner and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile are both run at 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita. The winner of the FrontRunner gets a fees-paid berth to the BC Juvenile through the Win and You’re In program.

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Both of American Pharoah’s starts have been in sprints, so this will be his first try around two turns. He is by the Empire Maker stallion Pioneerof the Nile. Based on his pedigree, distance should pose no problem.

“We’re all in the same boat stretching out,” Baffert said. “You might think they can, but you don’t know for sure until they try. I do know one thing – I don’t see him coming from five or six out of it. He’s fast.”

His rivals include Calculator, second in the Del Mar Futurity, and Skyway, fourth as the favorite in the Del Mar Futurity.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 10 Calculator. Trainer Peter Miller is 9-4-0-2 with a $4.97 ROI over the past five years going sprint to route with 2-year-olds on dirt. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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AMERICAN PHAROAH (Beyers: 101-75)

◗ He wore blinkers for his disappointing debut, but those were removed for his second start, his first under Victor Espinoza.

◗ The track on Del Mar Futurity Day definitely favored front-runners, which certainly helped American Pharoah, but the way he ran that day, no one was beating him under any circumstances.

LORD NELSON (Beyer: 72)

◗ As with American Pharaoh, he is trained by Baffert, who intended to also run Lord Nelson in the Del Mar Futurity. But he decided against it when dissatisfied with the way Lord Nelson, a son of Pulpit, trained on Polytrack leading up to that race.

◗ He’s had three works at Santa Anita since Del Mar ended, including a five-furlong drill in 59.60 seconds Sunday in company with American Pharoah.

“He worked with American Pharoah and went heads up with him,” Baffert said. “Two turns is not going to be a problem for him.”

:: DRF Breeding pedigree analysis: Santa Anita juveniles


◗ Though he’s bred to do best with distance, he was precocious enough to win his debut sprinting at Del Mar late in the meet.

◗ He ran his last quarter-mile of that six-furlong race in less than 24 seconds. He should be rolling late.