Records, Rematches, Redemption: American Pharoah & Chandelier Stakes Previews
Courtesy of Ren Carothers (@RenCarothers)
The “Win and You’re In” juvenile action will be set against the backdrop of the majestic San Gabriel Mountains at Santa Anita this weekend, with two G1 events for the babies carded, offering Breeders’ Cup berth into #FutureStarsFriday and points toward the Kentucky Derby and Oaks. We’ve seen many of these youngsters tangle in stakes competition before, but there are a few stepping up from the maiden special weight ranks, with a couple contenders looking to get their picture taken for the first time. While such a class jump sounds like a tough assignment, that’s part of what makes two-year-old racing so exciting, for spectators and bettors. These horses are constantly maturing, physically and mentally, and are asked to further extend themselves, opening the possibility for a breakout performance – and at juicy odds. Might that be the case this weekend?
What had been called the FrontRunner Stakes (and the Norfolk prior to that) will be run as the American Pharoah for the first time, and the 1-1/16th miles distance is the longest these boys have attempted so far. In addition to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile berth, it offers 10 points to the winner toward the Kentucky Derby. It is named, of course, for the exceptional horse who, in 2015, ended the Triple Crown drought of thirty-seven years, and went on to set a new benchmark in racing by also capturing the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He represents one of trainer Bob Baffert’s record seven victories in this race. Baffert will try to up that number to eight in this year’s edition, hanging hopes on a colt named Game Winner.
Here’s a look at the field with an emphasis on pedigree:
#1 Rowayton – This colt is the first of two entries for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He was favored on debut and, despite being drawn widest in a field of ten, rewarded the faithful, scoring by 1-3/4 lengths. Beyer jumped from 75 to 90 in the Del Mar Futurity, where he flew to the lead, clocking :45.35 for the half, and had the Baffert duo of Roadster and Game Winner barreling down on him to the wire. The latter came out on top, but Rowyaton held second over the former.
His sire, G1 winner Into Mischief, won the CashCall Futurity and is a half brother to four-time Eclipse Champion Beholder, as well as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf victor Mendelssohn, who was recently second in the Travers Stakes. Rowayton’s unraced dam is by Santa Anita Derby winner Indian Charlie, whose record includes a third place finish in the 1998 Kentucky Derby. Breeding her to Into Mischief made sense, not only because he’s consistently thrown talented offspring, but because he sired her half sister, Miss Mischief, 2015’s Sovereign Award champion female sprinter and champion older mare. Rowayton’s second dam, Kid Majic, was third in the Lone Star Oaks and is a half sister to J P’s Gusto, who won the Del Mar Futurity in 2010. J P’s Gusto next ran second to Jaycito in this race when it was known as the Norfolk, and finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which was won by Uncle Mo. Rowyaton’s female family also includes Santa Anita Oaks winner Imaginary Lady, and 2008’s Eclipse champion three-year-old filly, Proud Spell, who, the year before, finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
#2 Gunmetal Gray – This second Jerry Hollendorfer trainee broke his maiden going a mile in his second start, with a margin of victory of 6-3/4 lengths. It was a vast improvement from his debut, in which he was 10-1/4 lengths behind Roadster in a six furlong sprint back in July. He’s by Exchange Rate, winner of the 2001 G2 Tom Fool Handicap and the 2000 edition of the Risen Star Stakes. Exchange Rate was also twice graded-stakes placed at two, with runner-up finishes in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship and Best Pal. His dam, Classofsixtythree, was third in the 2010 G1 Ruffian Invitational behind Malibu Prayer and Unrivaled Belle, the latter of which would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (Distaff). Other black type in the pedigree includes third dam, Whip Cream, who was second in the G2 Matchmaker and G3 Martha Washington, and fourth dam, Tyson’s Cream Puff, winner of the Rocky River Handicap.
#3 Jefe – He has yet to reach the winner’s circle in three starts, but he’s been in the money each time, including a second place finish to Gunmetal Gray last out. He’s by Hall of Famer Curlin, whose illustrious career includes wins in the Dubai World Cup, back-to-back editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and, of course, the Breeders’ Cup Classic. His dam is an unraced daughter of multiple G1 winner Street Cry (2002 Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster), who was second in the then-Norfolk before a third place finish in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. She’s also a half sister to Big League, who was second to Klimt in the G2 Best Pal Stakes. Jefe’s second dam, Reunited, won the 2005 G3 Thoroughbred Club of America, and is a half sister to stakes winners Wind Tunnel, Deal Breaker, and G3 placed Ok Nothanksforaskn. His third dam, Tivli, won the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes and is a half sister to Salem County Stakes winner Lu Lu’s Lullaby. The family also includes Live Concert, who won the G3 Sports Nippon Sho Kyoto Kimpai Handicap in Japan.
#4 Game Winner - Bob Baffert’s lone entry graduated by 5-3/4 lengths on August 18th in his first career start, over Rowayton’s stablemate, Dueling, then beat Rowayton himself, scoring in the Del Mar Futurity. Game Winner is a son of Candy Ride and is out of Indyan Giving. She’s a daughter of Hall of Famer, and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, A.P. Indy, and 2006’s Eclipse champion older mare, Fleet Indian. Fleet Indian’s half sister, Cherokee Wonder, was a multiple stakes winner, in addition to being graded-stakes placed, and produced Cherokee’s Boy, who amassed over a million dollars in earnings doing it the hard way, with nineteen wins, ten seconds, and eight thirds in forty-eight starts. The female line extends to “Reine de Course” La Troienne, taproot mare of the 1x family, meaning Game Winner hails from one of our breed’s most far reaching and star-studded trees, one which includes Busher, Bimelech, Busanda, Buckpasser, Poker, Mineshaft, Easy Goer, Sea Hero, Smarty Jones, Go for Gin, Princess Rooney, Prairie Bayou, Personality, Judy the Beauty, Stephanie’s Kitten, etc...just to name a few – Phew!
#5 Sigalert - This colt also exits the Del Mar Futurity, in which he failed to put in a bid. He is a son of Street Sense, who won the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and validated that form at three, winning the Kentucky Derby, Jim Dandy, Travers, and finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Sigalert is a half brother to stakes placed Wild About Harry, and is out of Ouchy Night, who was second in the Joseph A. Gimma, and is a daughter of Cactus Ridge, who won all four career starts as a juvenile, including the G3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. This female family also includes Two Altazano, who won the 1994 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Now, let’s move on to the Chandelier, which was formerly known as the Oak Leaf, and is carded as race nine. It, too, is run at a 1-1/16th, and, in addition to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies berth, offers 10 points to the winner toward the Kentucky Oaks. Songbird is one of the most recent champions to win this event and she did so for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who will be hoping Brill can redeem herself after a lackluster performance in the Del Mar Debutante. Then you have Bob Baffert, who has two shots to win this race for the eleventh time, starting Mother Mother and Der Lu.
Here’s a closer look at the field with, again, focus on pedigree:
#1 Mother Mother – She and Bellafina went :44 3/5 for the half in the Del Mar Debutante, but Mother Mother couldn’t go on with her at the end, settling for second, beaten 4-1/4 lengths. She’s back for a rematch, this time, with blinkers on and Mike Smith up. Mother Mother, is a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile, who, prior to siring “Grand Slam” champion American Pharoah, was a multiple G1 winner himself, scoring in the CashCall Futurity and Santa Anita Derby before running second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Mother Mother’s mom is, fittingly, named Mother, and she is also the dam of G1 placed Commanding Curve, whom you may remember best for the way he dramatically closed for second behind California Chrome in the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Mother is herself a half sister to stakes placed Professor Biggs. He set a new course record at Penn National for 1-1/16th miles in 1:41 3/5. A standout name in the further reaches of this female family is three-time G1 winner Proper Reality (Metropolitan Handicap, Arkansas Derby, Philip H. Iselin Handicap).
#2 Del Mar May – If she wins, it will be her first career victory. She’s put in two, solid, second-place efforts, including against stakes company in the G2 Sorrento, which was won by Bellafina. Her sire, Jimmy Creed, won the G1 Malibu in 2012, beating the ultra-gritty Private Zone. Her multiple stakes- placed dam, Big Lou, is a daughter of Malibu Moon and a stakes-placed daughter of Boundary named Vermillion Sea. Del Mar May’s third dam, stakes winner Silver Beauty, was bred in Argentina, where she ran second in the G1 Argentine Oaks.
#3 Vibrance – Joel Rosario picks up the mount on this daughter of G1 CashCall Futurity winner Violence, who prevailed when she was switched from turf to dirt, scoring by 5-1/4 lengths, albeit over a six horse field. She’s out of the Dynaformer mare Block, making her a half sister to Lideris, a G1 winner in Peru. Her “grandma”, Rim, is a full sister to multiple G3 winner and sire, Boundary, whose most notable offspring is 2008’s dual-classic winner, Big Brown. This makes Vibrance’s third dam Edge, who won the G3 El Encino, and is herself a daughter of G2 Maskette Handicap winner Ponte Vecchio. Other stakes runners in the family include G2 San Carlos winner Crusading, District, Spire, Happily Unbridled, Unbridled Praise, Happy Humor, Passed Due, Ole Pegasus (two-time champion in Peru), and Keiai Gerbera, a multiple G3 winner in Japan.
#4 Brill – This $1,000,000 yearling purchase will be looking to restore her reputation after a clunker in the Del Mar Debutante. She’s a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, whose G1 wins include the Travers, Whitney, and Donn. He also put in second place finishes in the Wood Memorial, Belmont, Whitney, Pacific Classic, as well as the 2002 and 2003 editions of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Brill’s dam, Hung the Moon, by Malibu Moon, won the Wild Rose Stakes at Prairie Meadows and is a half sister to stakes placed Dulcify. Her second dam is stakes placed Storm Breaking, and her third dam, Sigrun, was a multiple stakes winner on the Florida circuit. This female family also includes stakes winner Catch My Drift, who was third in the G1 Beldame, and G2 winner Bay to Bay, who has the Natalma, a “Breeders Cup Win and You’re In” Challenge Series race for the Juvenile Fillies Turf, on her list of scores.
#5 Der Lu – Bob Baffert’s second entry sold for $900,000 this March and has quite the pedigree to justify the price. She’s a daughter of 2013’s Kentucky Derby champion Orb, and is out of Taboo, a daughter of G1 King’s Bishop winner Forestry, and three-quarters sister to G1 winning millionaire Creative Cause, who won the Norfolk (now American Pharoah), G2 San Felipe, and G2 Best Pal, was second in the G1 Santa Anita Derby and G1 Del Mar Futurity, and was third in the Preakness and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Taboo is also a three-quarters sister to Destin, whose performance in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby set a new track record of 1:42.82. Destin also won the G2 Marathon and G3 Sam F. Davis, and was second in the Belmont and Jim Dandy in 2016. Vexatious, third in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks and G3 Fantasy, is also a three-quarters sibling to Taboo. Der Lu’s second dam is Dream of Summer, winner of ten races in twenty starts, including the G1 Apple Blossom, G2 A Gleam, G3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap, G3 Gardenia, and two editions of the California Cup Matron Handicap. Other stakes horses in the family include Proper Mary, Somethingmerry, My Sonny Boy, as well as Opening Bid, who won the Oak Leaf back 1969, the year it was inaugurated.
#6 Bellafina – Trainer Simon Callaghan and jockey Flavien Prat teamed up to win last year’s Del Mar Debutante and Chandelier Stakes with Moonshine Memories. Bellafina has successfully completed the first half of that impressive double for the duo and will now try to seize the second, with blinkers off. Her sire, Quality Road, won his two-year-old debut, and retired a four-time G1 winner, taking the Florida Derby, Donn, Met Mile and Woodward. He set a track record of 1:47.72 in the 1-1/8th miles Florida Derby, and whittled it down to 1:47.49, winning the Donn by 12-3/4 lengths. Bellafina is a full sister to stakes winner, G3 placed Diamond King, and their dam, Akron Moon, is a stakes placed daughter of Malibu Moon. Bellafina’s second dam, Akronism, earned over $500,000, with G3 victories in the Royal North and Seaway Stakes to her name.
The American Pharoah and Chandelier Stakes may have short fields, but the talent and roots run deep. Though these babies are lightly raced, they’re carrying a bounty of storylines. Will Bob Baffert, who has won both races more times than any other trainer, extend those records? Who will prevail in the rematches of Game Winner and Rowayton? Bellafina and Mother Mother? Will it be a newcomer? Might Brill get her redemption? Tune to NBCSN this Saturday at 7pm ET to find out! The broadcast will also include the Awesome Again Stakes, a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series race offering berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic!
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