A race after beating himself in the Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity when he unseated his rider, ducking inward during the opening furlong, Eight Rings thoroughly defeated eight rivals by six lengths in the $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes Sept. 27 on opening day at Santa Anita Park.
His victory in the Grade 1 American Pharoah, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race, earned Eight Rings a berth in the Nov. 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, a race his trainer, Bob Baffert, has won four times, including last year at Churchill Downs with eventual champion Game Winner. The latter also won the American Pharoah.
Although Eight Rings proved much the best Friday, he was not perfect, racing greenly and switching leads in the stretch despite wearing blinkers for the first time. His lapse in focus came at a time when it hardly mattered, in the final furlong when he was well clear of the field.
In front by three lengths with an eighth of a mile remaining, he pulled away from runner-up American Theorem, who gave an unsuccessful chase throughout.
“He’s still not 100% confident in what he needs to do. Obviously, he’s very talented, but he needs to put it together and go on,” winning rider John Velazquez said. “He still ran a good race, but you can see he has some room to improve. If he can put his mind to running, he’ll be a dangerous horse.”
Velazquez, who also teamed to Baffert to win the Chandelier Stakes with Bast Friday at Santa Anita, replaced jockey Drayden Van Dyke, who injured his right arm when dislodged in the Del Mar Futurity. Van Dyke resumed riding Friday for the first time since.
“It was a good race for him, coming off that last disastrous race,” Baffert said. “I’m just so fortunate that Drayden didn’t get hurt worse.”
A son of Empire Maker owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Frederick Hertrich III, John Fielding, and Golconda Stables, Eight Rings completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.41, roughly a half-second faster than Bast (1:46.10). He carved out a fast tempo, fractions of: 23.72, :47.06, 1:11.71, before slowing to 1:38.11 for a mile and completing his final sixteenth in 7.30 seconds. He paid $4.40 to win.
Last year SF Bloodstock and Starlight West bought the colt, who is out of the graded stakes-winning Pure Prize mare Purely Hot, from Taylor Made Sales consignment to the Keeneland September yearling sale for $520,000. The colt was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm
The American Pharoah Stakes, named in honor of the Baffert-trained 2015 Triple Crown winner who won this race in 2014 when it was called the FrontRunner Stakes, saw a colt by American Pharoah finish second when American Theorem crossed the finish line 2 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Storm the Court.
Bast Edges Comical in Chandelier
Although racing in New York has been the principal base for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, it was in California that he delivered a record-setting moment Sept. 27, guiding Bast to a neck victory in the $300,351 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita Park, giving him the modern-day record of 661 graded stakes wins by a jockey.
The Grade 1 Chandelier proved more challenging than the public expected for Bast, the 1-5 favorite coming off an 8 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes. Sent after front-runner Comical, the eventual runner-up, on the second turn by Velazquez after pressing the pace, Bast poked a head in front coming into the stretch but could not extend her advantage.
Bast earned an automatic, entry-paid berth in the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. As a two-time Grade 1 winner and a winner at the track, she figures to be one of the favorites.
Game in defeat was Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes winner Comical, who after setting quarter-mile fractions of :24.92, :49.54, and 1:13.98, finished three lengths in front of third-place K P Dreamin. Been Studying Her and Buyer’s Remorse completed the order of finish.
The time for the Chandelier was modest: 1:46.10 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track, although the surface produced slow times Friday, Santa Anita’s opening day.
“I really think this race is going to move Bast up, so I feel pretty good about it,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “You’re supposed to get tired first time two turns. They’re a little bit confused; they’re 2-year-olds and they probably thought, ‘What are we doing? We have to go around again?’ ”
A daughter of Uncle Mo out of the Arch mare Laffina, Bast won for the second time in three starts, with her only defeat a runner-up finish in her Aug. 11 debut at Del Mar. She has earned $372,200 for owners Charles and Susan Chu of Baoma Corp.
Bast’s score helped Velazquez surpass the 660 graded stakes wins by retired Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, according to Equibase, which tracks statistics dating to 1976.
Velazquez increased his win total to 662 in the American Pharoah Stakes aboard Eight Rings.
Velazquez said Bailey “is a guy who I rode with for so many years and have looked up to for so long. It’s incredible.”