Juvenile star Cave Rock answered the two-turn question in the $301,500 American Pharoah (G1), one of three Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” contests at Santa Anita on Saturday. The 2-5 favorite put an exclamation point on a big day for late sire Arrogate, who also had Chandelier (G2) winner And Tell Me Nolies. The stakes action opened on turf, with Going to Vegas retaining her crown in the $301,000 Rodeo Drive (G1).
American Pharoah (G1)
Cave Rock displayed blazing speed in his two sprint romps, especially the Del Mar Futurity (G1). Thus the 1 1/16-mile American Pharoah was an important trial of his ability to ration out that speed. The Bob Baffert pupil proved that he was just as devastating over a route, propelling himself into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) as the presumptive favorite.
Regular rider Juan Hernandez was able to hold onto him through an opening quarter in :22.96, moderate by Cave Rock’s standards, and settled him into splits of :46.82 and 1:11.07. As a result, Cave Rock completed his triumphal circuit still full of run. Widening his margin to 5 1/4 lengths, and finishing his last sixteenth in :6.55, he clocked 1:43.05 – more than three seconds faster than the Chandelier.
Stablemate National Treasure was second at every call, fending off fellow Bafferts Hejazi and Gandolfini as the clear runner-up. Hejazi checked in third, and Gandolfini rounded out the superfecta. Concluding the strung-out field were Man Child, Skinner, Macnamara, and Odonata.
The American Pharoah is a scoring race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but Baffert’s runners are ineligible for points because he is suspended by Churchill Downs Inc. The only horse who put himself on the Derby scoreboard was Man Child, with one point for his fifth-place effort.
Campaigned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Cave Rock is a perfect 3-for-3 with $408,000 in earnings. The dark bay was bred in Kentucky by Anne and Ronnie Sheffer Racing and initially sold for $210,000 as a Keeneland November weanling. His current connections went to $550,000 to secure him as a yearling at Keeneland September.
Cave Rock’s dam, Georgie’s Angel, captured the 2011 Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga. The Bellamy Road mare is a half-sister to another graded juvenile winner, 2014 Bourbon (G3) scorer Lawn Ranger.
Just as Cave Rock completed a big-race double beginning with the Del Mar Futurity, so did Del Mar Debutante (G1) heroine And Tell Me Nolies follow up in Saturday’s $201,000 Chandelier. Unlike Cave Rock, she employed her grinding style from off the pace as an 8.40-1 overlay.
Bettors were smitten with Justique, an impressive Del Mar debut winner who was bet down to 6-5 favoritism in this stakes and two-turn debut. Home Cooking, just caught by And Tell Me Nolies in the Debutante, was backed into 3-2 to reverse form. But neither could match the relentless winner.
Trained by Peter Miller and well handled by Ramon Vazquez, And Tell Me Nolies broke awkwardly as she dove a stride or two out of the gate. The bay regrouped in fifth, about three lengths behind the contested pace.
Up front, Naughty Lottie carved out fractions of :22.85 and :46.71. The pressing Ice Dancing put her head in front at the six-furlong mark in 1:11.45, with Home Cooking lapped alongside. But they were spent upon straightening for home.
And Tell Me Nolies was just winding up. Overtaking the leaders at the top of the lane, the Peter Redekop B. C. runner churned on and staved off the rallying Uncontrollable by three-quarters of a length. She finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.15, returned $18.80, and picked up a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
Justique, who trailed early, made some headway into third, another 4 3/4 lengths back. Next came Ice Dancing, Home Cooking, and the tailed-off Naughty Lottie and Huntingcoco.
The top four – And Tell Me Nolies, Uncontrollable, Justique, and Ice Dancing – earned points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on the 10-4-3-2 scale. Fifth-placer Home Cooking is ineligible as a Baffert trainee.
And Tell Me Nolies advanced her resume to 4-3-0-0, $352,800. After a fourth on debut, the bay added blinkers and hasn’t looked back.
Bred by Lara Run in Kentucky, And Tell Me Nolies was a $70,000 “short” yearling at Keeneland January who brought $230,000 as an OBS April juvenile. Her dam, the Grade 3-winning Exchange Rate mare Be Fair, is a half to Grade 1 hero and classic-placed Macho Again.
Rodeo Drive (G1)
Abbondanza Racing, Medallion Racing, and MyRacehorse’s Going to Vegas is bound for the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) thanks to her repeat in the Rodeo Drive. Umberto Rispoli was once again aboard for her front-running coup.
There were three differences, though, to prevent a total sense of déjà vu. Going to Vegas was formerly with Richard Baltas, and now with Phil D’Amato. She was the 11-10 favorite in the 2021 Rodeo Drive, in the wake of her John C. Mabee (G2) victory; this time, she was the 2.60-1 third choice off a Mabee loss that prolonged her skid. A year ago, she just lasted by a head; on Saturday, she had daylight to spare.
Going to Vegas set very similar fractions, attended by the same rival, Neige Blanche, through the opening mile. After dictating in :23.82, :48.60, 1:13.42, and 1:36.61, Going to Vegas spurted clear into the stretch. The Goldencents mare held sway by 1 1/4 lengths while polishing off 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.41.
Family Way rallied strongly, but too late from an unpromising position, to snatch second from Bellamore. Fluffy Socks, the 3-2 favorite, tried to make a bold move from last, but flattened out in fourth. She was followed by Scarabea, Queen ofthe Temple, and Neige Blanche.
Going to Vegas, who was winning for the first time since last year’s edition, has compiled a mark of 28-8-11-3, $989,151. Claimed from breeders J. Kirk and Judy Robison in the summer of 2020, the bay placed in that fall’s Autumn Miss (G3), Red Carpet H. (G3), and American Oaks (G1). She scored her first stakes win in the 2021 Santa Ana (G3), continued her progress in the Mabee and Rodeo Drive, but retreated to 11th behind Loves Only You in the Filly & Mare Turf. Her 2022 campaign had been a string of placings – the Mar. 5 Buena Vista (G2), Mar. 26 Santa Ana (her final outing for Baltas), May 30 Gamely (G1), and Sept. 10 Mabee.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the stakes-winning Hard to Resist, a Johannesburg mare descended from multiple English stakes vixen Knoosh.