DEL MAR, Calif. — They say that anything can happen in a horse race, but every so often the results play out exactly how it looks on paper.
That’s what happened in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on Friday at Del Mar, as 7-5 favorite Corniche sped to the lead, set fast fractions, and maintained his advantage to the wire to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
After the scratch of second choice and likely pace challenger Jack Christopher the night before, the Bob Baffert-trained Corniche’s trip to the front was all but assured, but he still put up swift fractions of :23.03, :46.15, and 1:10.81 through six furlongs, while he maintained a 1 1/2-length lead through most of the journey under jockey Mike Smith.
“I knew from the (outside post in the field of 11) that he was going to have touse him harder than he’d like to,” Baffert said. “Mike is a great rider. I love him on a horse like that…He just kicked back in and held those horses off.”
Longshots Pappacap and Giant Game loomed at the top of the stretch, but could not make up any significant ground on the Speedway Stables-owned winner, who finished off the 1 1/16-mile dirt test in 1:42.50. Pappacap came in second, and Giant Game flattened to finish third.
The Baffert-trained Barossa actually won the break, but dropped back when Corniche crossed over to the rail and finished a non-competitive ninth.
“I don’t think I have ever been so calm in a big race,” Smith said. “I just sat really still, he caught a flyer leaving the gate, and (I) just left him alone.”
Another Baffert horse, Pinehurst was the closest to his leading stablemate early, but he tired to finish in a dead-heat for fifth, with Oviatt Class.
Bred in Kentucky, out of the Najran mare Wasted Tears, Corniche is now undefeated in three starts, with more than $1.2 million in purse earnings.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was set to award 20 points to the winner, but those points were not awarded to Corniche, because the colt is ineligible because of Baffert’s suspension by Churchill Downs Inc.
Pappacap earned eight points for his second-place Juvenile finish and now leads the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings, with 12.
“You know what? He’s a good horse, and he’s getting better,” said Pappacap’s trainer, Mark Casse. “Now we have to figure out how to get him to the Kentucky Derby. He’ll love the mile and a quarter.”
Giant Game, who only just broke his maiden Oct. 9 at Keenaland, earned four points toward the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings and is in seventh place.
“I think it’s going to be a fun spring,” said Giant Game’s trainer, Dale Romans. “I was real happy with him. Around the turn, I thought we were going to get it all. Congratulations to the winner. It was a big race by him. It’s
hard to beat (Baffert) on his home court.”