July 23, 2024

Muth shows new dimension in decisive American Pharoah triumph

Zedan Racing's Muth and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Grade I $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes Saturday, October 7, 2023 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA.
Muth winning the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita (Photo by Benoit Photo)

Muth showed off a new dimension in Saturday’s American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita, rating behind the early leaders before pouncing to a decisive victory.

The son of Good Magic had previously shown prowess as a speedster. In his debut dashing five furlongs at Santa Anita, Muth led by daylight through fractions of :21.60 and :44.59 on his way to victory by 8 3/4 lengths. The Bob Baffert trainee was similarly fast when stepping up in class for the six-furlong Best Pal (G3) at Del Mar, dueling through splits of :21.76 and :44.76 before staying on to finish second behind stablemate Prince of Monaco.

Prince of Monaco went on to win the Del Mar Futurity (G1), but skipped the American Pharoah to train up to the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). In the absence of his accomplished stablemate, Muth started as the 2-5 favorite in the American Pharoah and lived up to expectations.

Stretching out over 1 1/16 miles proved to be no obstacle for Muth. Rather than dash to a clear lead in his first start in a slower-paced route race, Muth settled comfortably in fourth place while saving ground behind stablemate Wine Me Up, who carved out fractions of :23.30, :46.49, and 1:10.22.

“He surprised me the way he relaxed today because he is normally a really aggressive horse,” said Juan Hernandez, the regular rider of Muth. “Out of the gate he’s fast. Bob and his team have been working with him trying to get him to relax. I saw him during morning workouts, and they put him behind a horse and he relaxed really well; down the stretch he would come and catch the other horses. Today I think it paid off because he relaxed really well and was traveling really well.”

Rounding the far turn, Muth found a seam between Wine Me Up and the pace-tracking Raging Torrent, splitting horses to mount a challenge. Wine Me Up tried to stay with the favorite early in the homestretch, but Muth was always moving stronger and kicked away in the final furlong to prevail by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:42.45.

“Around the turn I swung out to get him in the clear and as soon as I did that, he passed his company in the stretch like in the morning,” said Hernandez.

Wine Me Up held on for second while pulling 5 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Be You. Raging Torrent, Rothschild, Indispensable, Next Level, and El Magnifico trailed the field.

The American Pharoah awarded Muth a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. In addition, Baffert indicated Wine Me Up will target the Breeders’ Cup.

“Wine Me Up looked like he was really worked up behind the gate, he was a handful,” said Baffert. “He broke like a shot so (jockey Ramon Vazquez) let him go, he did the right thing, he didn’t take anything away from him. I love the way Muth settled, when I saw that I thought well we’ll see how good he is and I think Juan just helped him a lot today. It is nice when you have two nice colts. (Wine Me Up) definitely earned his way into the Breeders’ Cup. We still have Prince of Monaco too. We just have to keep them healthy.”

The American Pharoah is also a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race awarding Kentucky Derby (G1) qualification points on a 10-5-3-2-1 split to the top five finishers. However, Baffert is currently suspended by Churchill Downs Inc., so Muth and Wine Me Up were ineligible to earn points.