Saturday’s $300,000 American Pharoah (G1) honors the 2015 Triple Crown winner, who captured the same race when it was known as the FrontRunner Stakes in 2014. A short field of five has been entered for the second of 35 races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series and the 1 1/16-mile test at Santa Anita serves as a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on November 3.
Game Winner has been listed as the 6-5 morning line favorite following a pair of impressive wins, including the Del Mar Futurity (G1), and the American Pharoah marks the two-turn debut for the Candy Ride colt. Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown-winning conditioner, has several exciting prospects entering the fall and Game Winner presently tops the list. He’ll be difficult to deny under Joel Rosario.
Gunmetal Gray exits a sharp front-running score going two turns at Del Mar and could be lone speed with stablemate Rowayton expected to rate. His 96 BRIS Speed rating stacks up well (Game Winner earned a 97 in the Del Mar Futurity) and the gray son of Exchange Rate could last a long way for Jerry Hollendorfer and Flavien Prat.
Jefe is winless from three attempts but can’t be dismissed from top three consideration. Trained by Keith Desormeaux, the Curlin colt finished 11 ½ lengths clear of third when rallying fast for second behind Gunmetal Gray last time and offered another fine late run when third behind the now-sidelined Roadster two back. Look for him to make at least a minor impact in the stretch drive beneath Kent Desormeaux.
Sigalert will need to run faster to challenge after posting an 82 Speed rating in his first two starts. Rowayton is play-against for me. By Into Mischief and out of an Indian Charlie mare, the bay colt possesses plenty of speed as expected and turned in a commendable effort last time as the pacesetter in the Del Mar Futurity, gamely holding for second. However, his owner has sacked Drayden Van Dyke and Florent Geroux takes over the mount with explicit instructions not to be on the lead. Good luck putting a round peg in a square hole with that strategy and I will be playing against the speedy colt.
Game Winner will be singled in any multi-race wagers and keyed over Gunmetal Gray and Jefe in vertical exotics.
$20 Exactas: 4 over 2,3 ($40)