12/02/2014 3:24PM

Road to the Derby analysis: FrontRunner Stakes

Shigeki Kikkawa
American Pharoah wins the Grade 1 FrontRunner by 3 1/4 lengths Sept. 27.

Grade 1, $300,000 FrontRunner Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita, Sept. 27, 2014
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: American Pharoah
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Victor Espinoza
Owner: Zayat Stables, LLC
Beyer Speed Figure: 101

AMERICAN PHAROAH followed up his dazzling win in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity 24 days earlier with an equally impressive victory in the FrontRunner, the West Coast’s final major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Making his first start around two turns, American Pharoah went straight for the lead and secured it just as the field went under the wire for the first time. With jockey Victor Espinoza maintaining a snug hold on the reins, American Pharoah set fractions of 23.09 seconds, 47.27, and 1:11.84 for the first six furlongs over a surface that was kind to front-runners all day.

American Pharoah left his rivals during the fourth quarter of the race, when he threw a 23.93-second split at them with Espinoza doing no more than just waving the stick in front of American Pharoah’s right eye. He continued powerfully to the finish to complete 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:41.95, earning a gaudy Beyer Speed Figure of 101.

The final time compared well with the other 1 1/16-mile, Grade 1 stakes on the card. One race earlier, two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Beholder was timed in 1:42.19 for her victory in the Zenyatta Stakes. Later in the day, the 2-year-old filly Angela Renee was timed in 1:43.45 for her victory in the Chandelier Stakes.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

This win clearly stamped American Pharoah as the horse to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run five weeks later at the same track and distance.

CALCULATOR, as he had in the Del Mar Futurity, had to settle for second behind American Pharoah but ran well, finishing 1 1/2 lengths clear of third-place TEXAS RED after racing three paths wide throughout. Calculator is still a maiden but at this point might truly be the second-best 2-year-old male in the country.

Texas Red showed sharp improvement when sent two turns at Del Mar and continued his progressive form here, rallying for a non-threatening third over a track that did not help his running style.

LORD NELSON, like American Pharoah trained by Bob Baffert, sat a seemingly perfect trip just behind his stablemate while on the rail in fourth but offered little fight when challenged by Calculator and Texas Red and wound up fourth. Perhaps shorter distances will suit him better.

DADDY D T, who finished fifth, checked between horses at the start and raced wide the rest of the way. His previous best race was on turf, so perhaps that will be where he does best going forward.

SKYWAY, who finished sixth, failed to handle two turns after racing closest to American Pharoah through the early going. He could be a sprinter but could do better going two turns when not asked to keep up early with the likes of American Pharoah.

CONQUEST PANTHERA, who finished seventh, never was in the race.

SKY PREACHER, who finished last of eight, raced in midpack while just inside of Daddy D T, then  steadily retreated after six furlongs. Like Daddy D T, he may be best suited to a return to turf.