December 3, 2023

Corniche lives up to billing in BC WAYI American Pharoah

Corniche used his high cruising speed in the American Pharoah Stakes ©BENOIT PHOTO

Odds-on favorite Corniche stamped his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) ticket in Friday’s $301,000 American Pharoah S. (G1) at Santa Anita, and fellow unbeaten One Timer captured the $100,500 Speakeasy S., a “Win and You’re In” for the Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2).

American Pharoah (G1)

Bob Baffert has now won three of four runnings since the race was renamed in honor of his first Triple Crown champion. Speedway Stables’ Corniche, the $1.5 million OBS Spring Sale topper, is living up to his purchase price by dominating both starts so far.

Stretching out to 1 1/16 miles from a 5 1/2-furlong wire job in his Del Mar debut, Corniche figured to use that speed here, especially once he drew the rail. The 2-5 favorite duly hustled to the front, and Mike Smith guided him through a well-measured tempo.

Stablemate Rockefeller tracked in a close second as Corniche carved out splits of :23.55 and :47.26, tried to pose a challenge at the six-furlong point in 1:11.91, but found himself put in his place. As soon as Smith nudged him, Corniche imposed his authority swinging into the stretch.

Much as his sire and dam – Quality Road and multiple Grade 2 winner Wasted Tears – used to dispatch their rivals with sustained cruising speed, Corniche rolled to a 3 1/4-length victory. The stout bay clocked 1:44.75 while boosting his bankroll to $222,000.

Best Pal (G2) winner Pappacap, fourth with an erratic trip in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), was best of the rest in second. Although the Mark Casse pupil had a more straightforward passage this time as an outside stalker, jockey Joe Bravo noted that it still wasn’t ideal.

“If you watch the first two or three jumps, he stumbled and he was on his head, so he lost a little bit of position that way,” Bravo told track publicity.

“He sat there outside, but I wish I could have been the horse next to the leader, as it might have made the race a little bit different because my horse is a fighter.”

The Keith Desormeaux-trained Oviatt Class, a long-way last for most of the way, rallied for third, just a half-length off Pappacap. Rockefeller retreated to fourth. Next came Baffert’s longshot, Flying Drummer; Finneus; and the eased Joker Boy, who stumbled at the start.

The American Pharoah is a scoring race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Corniche and Rockefeller are not eligible, however, to receive points since Baffert is suspended by Churchill Downs Inc. Pappacap picked up four points and Oviatt Class earned two points.

Smith raved about Corniche’s potential:

“There’s just so much upside to this horse. That is what’s really exciting about him. When he broke his maiden as impressive as he did, he just gave me that feeling that we weren’t even close to his full potential, and he gave me that feeling today. He’s a big colt and he carries a lot of flesh. As he starts to get even fitter and harder inside, he’s gonna be a force to reckon with.

“That’s what makes a good horse, a great horse, a champion, so to speak. Not only do they have the speed and the stamina, but they have the mind to go with it, and he’s an extremely intelligent horse. He just aims to please.

“If you notice, I was aggressive with him leaving there and as soon as I put my hands down, he just put his ears up and waited on me, at every pole or as soon as he felt horses behind him, on his hip he would go just fast enough, kind of playing cat and mouse a little bit. I’m just excited about the upside to him. I think there is a whole lot there.”

Corniche was bred in partnership by Bart Evans – who also bred, owned, and trained Wasted Tears – and Stonehaven Steadings. The Kentucky-bred RNA’d for $385,000 as a Keeneland September yearling before starring at OBS.

Wasted Tears, a descendant of the *La Troienne tribe, is a perfect 6-for-6 as a producer. All of her racing-age foals have won, including stakes-placed Coffee Crush.

Speakeasy S.

One Timer knew the password for turf in the Speakeasy (Benoit Photo)

One Timer had yet to race on turf, but the all-weather performer adapted seamlessly to book his Juvenile Turf Sprint ticket. Trained by Larry Rivelli for Patricia’s Hope and Richard Ravin, the gelding ultimately proved the speed of the speed to prevail in :55.45 for five furlongs.

One Timer went off as the 19-10 second choice. His odds shortened late, and favorite Forbidden Kingdom, who had been odds-on, floated up to 9-5 by post time.

Jockey E.T. Baird had to drive One Timer on as he faced an early pace battle. A few tried to sprint from the gate, despite a bumpy start for most. But Forbidden Kingdom was the only rival matching strides with One Timer through an opening quarter in :21.01 on the firm course.

Soon One Timer was putting away Forbidden Kingdom on the far turn and opening up in the stretch. Clear by 2 1/2 lengths at the half-mile mark in :43.48, the son of Trappe Shot held the closing Time to Party by three-quarters of a length.

Forbidden Kingdom reported home another 2 1/2 lengths back in third. Given his noticeable greenness on the turn, trainer Richard Mandella was right not to stretch him out just yet. Miss Alacrity wound up fourth after stumbling at the break, followed by Blame It on Rose and Rock the Belles, who was forward on the rail before being crowded by the winner. Anmer Hall was scratched.

Now 3-for-3 with $138,153 in earnings, One Timer wired his first two starts on synthetic. He crushed an Arlington maiden by 12 1/2 lengths and passed his stakes test in a romp in the July 31 Victoria S. at Woodbine.

Baird commented on One Timer’s trip and turf aptitude:

“He broke well. I had to ask him out of there, but he’s pretty professional outside of the post parade. He just kept running true.

“I think he took to the (turf) great. We worked him one time in Chicago over the (Arlington) grass and I happened to work another horse, an older horse on the same morning (July 6), and the older horse ended up winning (a) stake after that work, against older horses, but he didn’t work that well over it, and this horse worked excellent over it. 

“It pretty much hasn’t changed; he just likes to go. I mean, he’s competitive. He loves to run.”

Bred by St. Simon Place in Kentucky, One Timer brought $21,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling. The bay is the first foal from Spanish Star, a Blame half-sister to 2019 Belmont S. (G1) winner Sir Winston.