The three Graded stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday all had implications for the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland next month. Cave Rock looked a potential top-notcher when leading all the way in the 2022 American Pharoah Stakes (G1), the front-running Going To Vegas repeated in the G1 Rodeo Drive, and And Tell Me Nolies continued to move under the radar when completing a three-timer in the G2 Chandelier.
American Pharoah Stakes
Cave cruises, Baffert dominates
Just like last year, Bob Baffert will be taking an unbeaten colt to the Breeders’ Cup as the favorite, after Cave Rock earned a free pass to the G1 Juvenile with a romping success in the 2022 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday.
The Arrogate colt was as dominant in the race as was his trainer, going gate-to-wire to lead home a Baffert superfecta at skinny but justified odds of 2-5. He was fast away under Juan Hernandez and never let up the gallop, pulling away down the stretch to score by five and a quarter lengths under a hand-ride, stopping the clock in 1:43 and change.
Baffert’s third-string National Treasure raced in second throughout and held off barnmate Hejazi by three and a half lengths, who in turn had three and a quarter lengths to spare over barnmate Gandolfini in fourth.
American Pharoah Stakes Horse Race Video
“He’s speed, he’s a powerful horse,” said Baffert, winning the American Pharoah for a record 11th time. “He’s tough too, and when I looked at the clock it looked like racehorse time to me.”
The time was more than a second and a half faster than Corniche ran to win this race last year, and that colt followed up in the BC Juvenile. That’s where Cave Rock – previously successful in the G1 Del Mar Futurity – is headed, along with National Treasure. Hejazi, who is still a maiden, will return to that level.
Rodeo Drive Stakes
Vegas hits the jackpot
In a welcome return to top form, Going To Vegas led every step of the way to post back-to-back victories in the Rodeo Drive and earn a paid berth into the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland next month.
She hadn’t visited the winner’s circle since last year’s Rodeo Drive, but the result was never really in doubt once the 5-2 third-choice had established her favorite position on the front end. Going To Vegas kept rolling for Umberto Rispoli down the stretch and the late-closing Family Way could never land a blow, the margin at the line a length and a quarter, the time 1:59 and two-fifths. The longshot Bellamore was pushed into third by a neck, with the favorite Fluffy Socks a never-dangerous fourth.
Rodeo Drive Stakes Horse Race Video
“There’s no reason not to take a swing at Keeneland,” said trainer Phil D’Amato, who only took over the training of Going To Vegas in the spring. “This was the plan all along and we got the job done.”
The Breeders’ Cup will likely be the last hurrah for Going To Vegas, who is entered in the sales in Kentucky on the day after the world championships, with a broodmare career ahead of her. She sank without trace in the F&M Turf 12 months ago, finishing 11th of 12, but the shorter distance of the race this year will be to her advantage.
Nolies is real deal
There may have been a little doubt over the merit of her victory in the G1 Del Mar Debutante, but And Tell Me Nolies underlined her class with a solid score in the Chandelier, booking herself a free ticket to the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in the process.
The 8-1 fourth-choice, trained by Peter Miller, was kept well away from the fractions set by Naughty Lottie and Ice Dancing until Ramon Vazquez sent her running around the far turn. She came three wide on the bend and made the lead at the eighth pole, digging in gamely from there to turn back the challenge of Uncontrollable and win by three-quarters of a length, in a time of 1:46 and one-fifth. The hype horse and favorite Justique was never really competitive, four and three-quarter lengths back in third.
“She stumbled badly from the gate and got a little tired late, but she knows what to do,” said Vazquez. “She is getting better and better with every race and I think she is going to be a superstar later.”
And Tell Me Nolies, a daughter of Arrogate, is now three-for-four and the next stop will indeed be Keeneland on November 4. She might be a superstar sooner rather than later.
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