Game Winner wins American Pharoah Stakes to stay undefeated
Courtesy of Jay Privman of DRF.com
ARCADIA, Calif. – Trainer Bob Baffert dearly wanted to win the American Pharoah on Saturday at Santa Anita, and he got the money with his colt Game Winner, who remained unbeaten and earned a berth five weeks hence in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
But the result was more significant owing to who was leading Game Winner into the winner’s circle.
Eduardo “Lalo” Luna was the groom for American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple Crown winner, and he is also the groom for Game Winner. He also was the groom for Justify, this year’s Triple Crown winner, and Arrogate. Put a good horse in his hands, and watch him bloom.
Game Winner ($2.60) ran his record to three wins in as many starts on Saturday with a 4 1/2-length victory in the American Pharoah, a Grade 1, $300,000 race for 2-year-olds that is a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs. The American Pharoah is at the same distance, 1 1/16 miles, as the Juvenile, and considering that this was the first two-turn race for Game Winner, he more than passed the test.
Game Winner won his debut on Aug. 18 at Del Mar against maidens, came back just 15 days later to capture the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, and 26 days after that won the American Pharoah.
“Racing is good for him,” Baffert said. “The more racing he gets, the better. He’s a heavy horse. You can’t go easy on him. This should set him up.”
Game Winner went right with the pacesetting Rowayton in the early going and sat just outside him through fractions of 23.43 seconds for the opening quarter, 47.50 seconds for the half, and 1:11.85 for six furlongs. Game Winner got the best of Rowayton entering the lane and was never threatened en route to a final time of 1:43.77 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.
“He broke well, and I was able to put him in a good spot outside the other horse,” said Joel Rosario, who rode Game Winner. “He relaxed very well.”
Rosario said Game Winner “wasn’t trying hard at the end.”
“He wants some company. He kind of just waited,” Rosario said, indicating more was there.
Gunmetal Gray, who ended up in an ideal stalking position early, could not keep pace with Game Winner nor Rowayton on the far turn but persevered to get second by one length over Rowayton, who emptied out late. Jefe and Sigalert completed the order of finish.
“Really nice,” Baffert said of winning the American Pharoah. “Same groom as American Pharoah, too.”
Game Winner, by Candy Ride, was purchased as a yearling by agent Ben Glass on behalf of his bosses, owners Gary and Mary West.
“They go out and find these good horses,” Baffert said. “I’m fortunate to have these kind of clients.”
And Baffert is fortunate to be able to put a horse like that in the hands of Luna.
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