2022 American Pharoah & Rodeo Drive Odds and Picks

There will be plenty of Breeders’ Cup clues at Santa Anita on Saturday when the G1 2022 American Pharoah – featuring the unbeaten and highly promising Cave Rock – takes center stage. The juvenile fillies get their turn in the G2 Chandelier, where Justique aims to justify the hype against G1 winner/second And Tell Me Nolies and Home Cooking, while last year’s G1 Rodeo Drive winner Going To Vegas bids to go back-to-back against classy out-of-towners Family Way and Fluffy Socks.

American Pharoah Stakes

Grade 1, $300,000, 1m 1/16, 2yo

Not only did Bob Baffert train the great American Pharoah, winner of this race in 2014, but he also owns the American Pharoah – the main event at Santa Anita on Saturday and a win-and-in for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland on November 4 – with a record ten wins including last year’s edition with Corniche. And he’s in the box-seat this year too.

Baffert trains half the field, including the heavy favorite Cave Rock (4-5), unbeaten in two starts and mighty impressive in the seven-furlong G1 Del Mar Futurity last time, when he took the race by the scruff of the neck from the gate and dominated, clearing away through the stretch to win by five and a quarter lengths in less than a second outside the track record.

He is regarded as the best juvenile in Baffert’s powerful barn and there is unlikely to be an issue with today’s extra yardage. He may not lead and he probably doesn’t need to lead, and his presumed superiority over this field can be seen in the fact that Skinner (5-1), the third-choice on the morning-line, was ten lengths back in third place in the Futurity, gaining late but never a threat, with this longer distance a positive.

Cave Rock’s barnmate Hejazi (5-2) is still a maiden after two starts but turned in an excellent performance when runner-up to Speed Boat Beach – another Baffert star who won a stakes here last week – in a Del Mar maiden over five and a half furlongs, run in track-record time. He has another three furlongs to run here and that obviously raises a question, but the class is there, as you would hope for a colt who cost $3.5m earlier this year.

Baffert’s back-ups are National Treasure (6-1), who made just about every yard on debut at Del Mar over six and a half furlongs, winning gamely by a length and a half, and Gandolfini (12-1), who got the job done first time at Los Alamitos over a mile, getting home by a half-length from the more experienced Odonata (20-1), who was four and a half lengths clear of the third horse, in a slow time. Both will move up and could easily figure.

Man Child (30-1) hinted at promise when third in the G3 Best Pal at Del Mar over six furlongs, eight lengths behind Havnameltdown, who then split Cave Rock and Skinner in the Futurity. That gives him plenty to find anyway, and he failed to progress when only third in a stakes at Los Alamitos last time. Los Alamitos maiden winner Macnamara (50-1) has proven stamina but this looks much too tough a spot.

2022 American Pharoah Betting Prediction 

It’s hard to look away from the unbeaten CAVE ROCK, who was very impressive in G1 company last time and should continue to improve.

GandolfiniEdwin A. Maldonado+1200
Man ChildHector Isaac Berrios+3000
MacnamaraTyler Baze+5000
OdonataAbel Cedillo+2000
Cave RockJuan J. Hernandez-125
National TreasureRamon A. Vazquez+600
SkinnerVictor Espinoza+500
HejaziMike E. Smith+250

Rodeo Drive Stakes

Grade 1, $300,000, 1m 2f turf, 3yo+ fillies/mares

A competitive, close-knit group of distaffers takes to the track for the Rodeo Drive, with an extra prize of a paid berth into the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland on November 5 available to the winner.

Last year’s Rodeo Drive winner Going To Vegas (5-2) bids to go back-to-back, to follow up her all-the-way success when she just had enough gas in the tank to hang on by a head, but it’s not a straightforward assignment as she hasn’t won since and is developing a bad case of ‘nearlyitis’, finishing 2223 in her last four starts.

She was off the track for more than three months before returning in the G2 John C Mabee over a mile-eighth at Del Mar, when she could never put her stamp on the race and came in third, beaten three lengths, with longshot Bellamore (15-1) three-quarters of a length behind in fourth. She’s entitled to be sharper with that under her belt and the extra furlong will play to her strengths.

Her main rivals come from out of town, headed by cross-country tourist Fluffy Socks (2-1), who is also without a win this year and has the same complaint as Going To Vegas, with a recent formline of 22422. She has never been off the board when shipping to California, though, and showed that there was still fire in the furnace when rallying hard to be runner-up in the mile-sixteenth G2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga, beaten just a half-length with seven lengths back to the third horse.

Family Way (5-2) – there must be something going around, her recent formline reading 2232 – has come from Kentucky, and was G1-placed this summer in the ten-furlong New York at Belmont Park behind Bleecker Street, and in the mile-eighth Beverly D at Churchill Downs.

She went chasing a big pot when stretching right out to a mile and five-eighths in the G3 Ladies Marathon at Kentucky Downs but ran some way below par when only runner-up in a moderate contest. Back at this distance, she should leave that effort behind, and her form behind Bleecker Street is top-notch.

The strong stayer Neige Blanche (5-1) won the G3 Santa Barbara here over a mile and a half in May, making her bottomless stamina pay dividends when finishing best of all to grab it by a length and a quarter, with another two and three-quarter lengths back to Queen Ofthe Temple (30-1) in third.

Next time out Neige Blanche showed enough speed to win a stakes over course and distance, going gate-to-wire to beat Scarabea (6-1) by a length, but was a big disappointment in a stakes over a mile and three-eighths at Del Mar last time, finishing fifth while Scarabea and Bellamore ran second and third. That level of form isn’t good enough and she may not have the pace to get her own way in front.

Rodeo Drive Betting Pick 

Someone needs to step up here and perhaps it will be FAMILY WAY, whose G1 form from the summer looks pretty strong in this context.

Queen Ofthe TempleHector Isaac Berrios+3000
Fluffy SocksJoe Bravo+200
Going to VegasUmberto Rispoli+250
ScarabeaAbel Cedillo+600
Neige Blanche (FR)Juan J. Hernandez+500
BellamoreKyle Frey+1500
Family WayMike E. Smith+250

Chandelier Stakes

Grade 2, $200,000, 1m 1/16, 2yo fillies

Bob Baffert has an even more impressive record in the Chandelier, a win-and-in for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies that he’s won 12 times, and is doubly represented this year, although his chances are much less clear-cut than in the American Pharoah.

The Chandelier is almost a photocopy of last month’s G1 Del Mar Debutante over seven furlongs, from which the first three home renew rivalry over an unfamiliar distance for all of them. The Debutante resulted in a thrilling finish between And Tell Me Nolies (3-1) and Home Cooking (3-1), Baffert’s main hope today, with the former taking the spoils by a head.

The odds-on favorite Home Cooking had skipped clear around the turn and was home free halfway down the stretch, but she began to weaken and And Tell Me Nolies rallied like a freight train to grab Home Cooking on the line, with Ice Dancing (10-1) never dangerous in third, three and three-quarter lengths behind.

Home Cooking – who won her maiden by nine and a quarter lengths – may have used herself up with that mid-race move, and now she stretches out may be ridden with a little more restraint. Equally, And Tell Me Nolies – who broke her maiden by a neck – looks as though she’ll relish the stiffer test of stamina, so it’s tough to draw a firm conclusion as to the likely outcome.

In any case, the morning-line favours the totally unexposed Justique (2-1), who left a very deep impression with her debut win at Del Mar over five and a half furlongs. She had plenty to do before doing it in devastating fashion, surging through the stretch without being asked for maximum effort to win by two and a half lengths, with none other than fellow debutante Home Cooking another half-length back in third.

Justique is a daughter of Justify, so stretching out shouldn’t be a worry, and if she can make similar improvements to that displayed by Home Cooking then she will be hard to beat, although young horses do not develop at identical rates. She’s exciting, but her odds aren’t.

Baffert’s second-string Huntingcoco (7-2) was a romping winner on debut over five and a half furlongs at Del Mar, cruising home by six and three-quarter lengths, and the runner-up has franked the form with a subsequent victory. She has similar credentials to Justique and if coping with the extra yardage will be a threat.

Uncontrollable (12-1) has tried her luck in a state-bred stakes but came up short at Del Mar over six furlongs when doing all her best work late. The longer distance should suit but she needs much more, as does Naughty Lottie (12-1), a distant third in a six-furlong stakes at Prairie Meadows in August.

Chandelier Stakes Betting Prediction 

There has been a lot of talk about JUSTIQUE ever since her scintillating debut win and she’s the choice to live up to her tall reputation.

Naughty LottieRyan Curatolo+1200
Ice DancingUmberto Rispoli+1000
Home CookingMike E. Smith+300
HuntingcocoEdwin A. Maldonado+350
And Tell Me NoliesRamon A. Vazquez+300
UncontrollableJuan J. Hernandez+1200
JustiqueVictor Espinoza+200

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