Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
Corniche Romps in American Pharoah, Ain’t Easy Takes Chandelier to Headline Santa Anita’s OpenerRacingContent provided by BloodHorse
High expectations for Corniche just keep getting higher.
The pricey auction purchase improved to 2-for-2 with a front-running 3 ¼-length victory in the $301,000, Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita Park Oct. 1 as part of the opening day card of its fall 2021 meet. The 2-year-old son of Quality Road ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in 1:44.75, .45 of a second faster than Ain't Easy 's winning time of 1:45.20 in the Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies about an hour earlier.
Corniche returned $2.80 to win as the prohibitive 2-5 favorite.
Pappacap ran second, Oviatt Class third, and Rockefeller fourth.
Corniche never gave his backers any concern. Hustled to the lead by Smith, he smoothly set fractions of :23.55, :47.26, and 1:11.91, flicking his ears forward at various stages of the race in an indication of how easily he was traveling.
Flavien Prat on stablemate Rockefeller tried to keep Corniche occupied, urging his mount forward to apply pressure, but each time Corniche picked up the tempo and opened up breathing room once again.
He then shook off that fading rival on the second turn, and after a stalking Pappacap surged into contention with a three-wide advance coming into the stretch, Corniche kicked away.
"There's just so much upside to this horse," said Smith. "This 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 ... 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."
Pappacap leveled out down the lane but had enough to outlast a rallying Oviatt Class by a half-length for the place.
The American Pharoah served as a "Win and You're In" qualifier, granting the victor a free, automatic berth into the Grade 1 TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Nov. 5 at Del Mar. Corniche broke his maiden by 4 ¼ lengths at Del Mar this summer.
Bob Baffert trains the winner for Speedway Stables, who purchased him for $1.5 million from the de Meric Sales consignment at this year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.
"We thought that he was the best-looking colt we bought in five years, the way he moved, his stride, and things like that," said Peter Fluor, who partners with Kane Weiner in Speedway Stables.
The victory in the American Pharoah was Baffert's 10th in the race, which was previously called the FrontRunner Stakes and Norfolk Stakes. One of those prior winners, Gary and Mary West's Game Winner, repeated in the 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
"You never know until you send them two turns whether they'll be able to handle it or not, and it looked like he handled it pretty well," Baffert said of Corniche. "He's got a great mind, so I'm pretty happy about that."–Byron King
Ain't Easy Finds Chandelier an Easy Victory
After Joey Platts bought a yearling daughter of Into Mischief at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, he kept sending in names and getting them rejected.
"I was sitting there and I said, 'This ain't easy,' and there it was, Ain't Easy," Platts said. "And then I got to thinking about it; it's not easy to win a race or do a lot of things."
Ain't Easy found the Grade 2, $201,000 Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies Oct. 1 at Santa Anita Park exceedingly easy, however. Once she pulled even with pacesetter Electric Ride in the second turn of the 1 1/16-mile race, she sauntered home so easily that jockey Joel Rosario was able to sit completely still and let her coast home. The victory earned Ain't Easy a "Win and You're In" berth to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 6 at Del Mar, and Ain't Easy became the 100th black-type stakes winner for leading sire Into Mischief.
The 7-2 second choice to odds-on and TVG Del Mar Debutante winner Grace Adler, Ain't Easy settled in on the rail early behind Electric Ride and Dance to the Music. Around the first turn, Electric Ride was about a length in front of the six others with the favorite racing in last.
Rosario found enough room inside of Electric Ride to bring Ain't Easy up into second down the backside. Those two raced as a team, with Ain't Easy taking over near the half-mile pole. From there, Ain't Easy used the stretch merely to pad her advantage. She ultimately defeated Electric Ride by 4 ¾ lengths, with Desert Dawn third. Grace Adler finished fifth of seven. Ain't Easy stopped the timer in 1:45.20.
"It was a very good trip – she broke really sharply," said Rosario. "It was her first time going long, and she did it really easily. You don't know how good you are until you go with tough competition like this, and she did it the right way."
Phil D'Amato trains Ain't Easy, who is out of the stakes-placed Fastnet Rock mare Ameristralia . Platts owns the filly with Andrew Molasky's Old Bones Racing Stable and Michael Lombardi.
"My brother Brad and I picked her out and short-listed her, and then Phil showed up at the sale and that was the first horse we took him to," said Platts, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is in the oil and gas business.
They bought Ain't Easy for $400,000.
"I was partners with Mike Lombardi on another horse," said Platts. "I asked Phil if he had anyone else who wanted to partner, and that's how I got hooked up with Andrew."
D'Amato unveiled Ain't Easy at Del Mar Aug. 21, and she broke her maiden by 5 ¼ lengths going 5 ½ furlongs. The Chandelier was her second start.
"She just looked like she was having fun in the stretch," said D'Amato. "I think it set up perfect, a good two-turn experience, confidence booster, an easy win, where it didn't look like she was taxed too much."
Platts looks forward to having Ain't Easy in the Breeders' Cup now that she has an automatic berth.
"Hopefully, she can do it again come November," he said.–Tracy Gantz
One Timer Extends Unbeaten Streak with Speakeasy Score
Earlier on the card, Midwest shipper One Timer held on to win the five-furlong Speakeasy Stakes to improve to three-for-three in his young career and earn an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on Nov. 5 at Del Mar.
The Trappe Shot gelding, who posted easy wins on synthetic tracks at Arlington International Racecourse and Woodbine to start his career for trainer Larry Rivelli, took to turf with aplomb in the Speakeasy, shooting out to a 2 ½-length in early stretch under veteran jockey E T Baird. California-based Time to Party rallied late, but One Timer kept that foe at bay to win by a half-length, covering the distance in a sharp :55.45 on a course rated firm.
One Timer earned a spot in the Juvenile Turf Sprint starting gate via the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. He boosted his earnings to $138,153 for owners Patricia’s Hope LLC and Richard Ravin.