Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah gave Bob Baffert his record-extending 12th Del Mar Futurity (G1) after an incredible performance in the near track-record time in the southern California track’s premier raced for 2-year-olds
American Pharoah was a troubling fifth in his maiden special weight debut Aug. 9, also at Del Mar, but still had plenty of backing for Wednesday’s seven furlong Futurity following a couple of very good workouts.
Breaking from the rail, American Pharoah got hustled away from the gate by Victor Espinoza and made the lead after a sixteenth of a mile. The Pioneerof the Nile colt laid down some solid fractions of :45.23 for the half and 1:08.95 for the six furlongs, and still was widening at the wire despite Espinoza easing up in the final 50 yards.
The final time of 1:21.48 was just 3/5ths of a second off the track record.
After Wednesday's win, Baffert reflected on the disappointing debut and the changes he made in preparation for the Futurity.
“He acted up that day, was rank coming out of the paddock, and ran off,” Baffert said by telephone (assistant trainer Jim Barnes handled the saddling duties). “We took the blinkers off, and I put cotton in his ears, and he came back and worked really, really nice. We decided to take a shot at it. I haven’t done it much, but this is the first time I’ve won a race putting cotton in a horse’s ears.”
American Pharoah picked up $180,000 for the win and becomes the West Coast’s leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The bay is the second foal out of the Yankee Gentleman mare Littleprincessemma, who is a half-sister to Old Hat S. (G3) winner Misty Rosette and Grade 2 Laz Barrera S. winner Storm Wolf.
Baffert has now won five of the last seven runnings of the Futurity, and won a remarkable seven in a row at one point, starting with eventual Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Silver Charm in 1996.