Eight Rings Ready to Rebound in American Pharoah Stakes
Photo Copyright Eclipse Sportswire
Article Courtesy of Aaron Halterman of the Racing Dudes
Over the years, the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita has been a major producer of TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winners. This year’s contenders once again look strong, with a field of nine ready to contest the event.
Last year, trainer Bob Baffert was able to capture this race with Game Winner, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in his next start. This year, Baffert brings Eight Rings to the event in search of redemption after losing the rider at the start of the Del Mar Futurity (G1). Before that, Eight Rings was one of the most impressive maiden special weight winners at the Del Mar meeting, dominating by 6 1/4 lengths while going 5 1/2 furlongs. He’ll get a new jockey for this race as Hall of Famer John Velazquez will fly in from the east coast to ride the potential superstar. They will break from post 3.
The winner of the American Pharoah Stakes will receive an automatic position in the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
Here is a look at the full field:
#1 American Theorem – He’ll look to try Grade 1 company after an impressive debut victory at Del Mar in a maiden special weight. That field featured several well-regarded horses, so his victory was fairly impressive, but he’ll be asked the major class question in this spot. It would be quite the story for a son of American Pharoah to win the American Pharoah Stakes.
#2 Fore Left – This Doug O’Neill-trained colt has faced stakes action in his last three starts since breaking his maiden in May. After winning the Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park, h finished third in the Best Pal Stakes (G2) and fifth in the Del Mar Futurity (G1). Stretching out to two turns could be a major benefit for a colt whose pedigree suggests that he should enjoy the extra distance.
#3 Eight Rings – Perhaps the most impressive maiden special weight winner of the entire Del Mar meeting, he dominated in his debut, winning by multiple lengths and looking like he had plenty left in the tank. However, disaster struck in his next race when he threw off his rider in the Del Mar Futurity shortly after breaking from the gate. Hall of Famer John Velazquez rides here in what seems to be a calculated move on Baffert’s part.
#4 Express Train – After losing to Eight Rings on debut, he dominated a Del Mar maiden special weight by 14 1/4 lengths in runaway fashion. That win makes Eight Rings look even more impressive, but Express Train also showed great improvement. His pedigree suggests that this two-turn race is going to be right up his alley, which makes him extra dangerous.
#5 Storm the Court – This was the other horse that lost a rider in the Del Mar Futurity. Eight Rings gets the most publicity out of that incident because he caused it, but Storm the Court was also highly-regarded. In his prior start, he won a maiden special weight at Del Mar by 1 1/2 lengths over the hyped colt Garth. It will be interesting to see what happens when he gets a better trip.
#6 Defense Wins – This maiden will try to take home a Grade 1 victory against and ultra-difficult field. He was second on debut in a Del Mar maiden special weight before going straight to the Del Mar Futurity, where he was a decent third. That earned him another chance, and his prior stakes experience will help.
#7 Shoplifted – Trainer Steve Asmussen will ship this horse from the east coast after two solid efforts at Saratoga. He was able to win a maiden special weight on debut at Saratoga by 4 1/2 lengths, which was more than enough to give the Hopeful Stakes (G1) a try. He was a solid second to his stablemate Basin, so the fact that Asmussen is sending him all the way to the west coast is a good sign.
#8 Nucky – Will the 35/1 Del Mar Futurity winner do it again here? He’s likely to be a longshot again, though he does come into this race having won two straight. After losing his first three starts, he put it all together against maiden claiming foes at Del Mar, cruising by 10 lengths. This horse seems to be rapidly improving and should enjoy going longer.
#9 Collusion Illusion – He’ll try to make it a perfect three-for-three in this spot after winning his debut at Del Mar in workman-like fashion. He then went to the Best Bel Stakes and won without being asked for his best. He showed solid improvement between starts, so more improvement could happen again here.
The American Pharoah Stakes serves as one of seven Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events this weekend at Santa Anita Park and Belmont Park. Here is the full schedule for this coming weekend:
- Friday: The Chandelier Stakes (Juvenile Fillies) at Santa Anita Park
- Friday: The American Pharoah Stakes (TVG Juvenile) at Santa Anita Park
- Saturday: The Jockey Club Gold Cup (Longines Classic) at Belmont Park
- Saturday: The Vosburgh Stakes (Sprint) at Belmont Park
- Saturday: The Awesome Again Stakes (Longines Classic) at Santa Anita Park
- Saturday: The Rodeo Drive Stakes (Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf) at Santa Anita Park
- Sunday: The Zenyatta Stakes (Longines Distaff) at Santa Anita Park
The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue next weekend with an eye-popping 16 events, starting Friday at Keeneland on the Lexington track’s opening day. The Action will continue throughout the country on Saturday and Sunday, with more races from Keeneland, Belmont Park, and Santa Anita Park. .
For more coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, head over to racingdudes.com.
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