Cave Rock and jockey Juan Hernandez win G1 American Pharoah at Santa Anita
Greatness appeared to have been center stage in Saturday’s $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita, as Bob Baffert’s Cave Rock, in his first attempt at two turns, unleashed a powerful front-running performance, winning by 5 ¼ lengths while getting 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.05—three seconds faster than the winner of the Chandelier Stakes (G2) for juvenile fillies earlier on the card.
A Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier, the American Pharoah winner earned a fees-paid berth into the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 4 at Keeneland.
Quick into stride from his number five post position, Cave Rock outfooted his stablemates National Treasure and Hejazi into the first turn and in Baffert’s words, “settled into a nice rhythm” in the run to the far turn.
On top by two lengths leaving the quarter pole, Cave Rock was simply brilliant in the final eighth of a mile as Baffert finished an unprecedented one-two-three-four with National Treasure, Hejazi, and Gandolfini completing the superfecta.
A six-length first out maiden winner going 6 ½ furlongs Aug. 13 at Del Mar, Cave Rock came back as the 2-5 favorite in the Runhappy Del Mar Futurity (G1) at seven panels Sept. 11 and galloped by 5 ¼ lengths. Sent off Saturday at 2-5 odds among a field of eight, he paid $2.80.
Cave Rock provided his sire, Arrogate, who Baffert saddled to victory in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), with his second graded stakes winner on the day and his third overall win.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Cave Rock, who is out of the Bellamy Road mare Georgie’s Angel, is unbeaten in three starts and looms the likely favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. With today’s winnings of $180,000, he increased his earnings to $408,000 while providing Baffert with his record 11th American Pharoah win and his fourth in the last five years.
Although faced with a tall order, National Treasure, with only a first-out maiden win sprinting to his credit, pressed the pace throughout, kept to his task and in all likelihood, would of won the American Pharoah in most any other year.
With Ramon Vazquez aboard, National Treasure finished 3 ½ lengths better than third-place finisher Hejazi while Gandolfini was fourth.
Cave Rock, who was bred in Kentucky by Anne and Ronnie Sheffer Racing LLC, was a $550,000 purchase by Three Amigos Racing Stable (Pegram, Watson, and Weitman) from the Gainesway consignment at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. His dam is the Bellamy Road mare Georgie’s Angel.
JUAN HERNANDEZ, CAVE ROCK, WINNER: “He broke really good, very nice. At first, he was kind of looking around a little bit around the turn, when he got the lead, he was all game and after that he started improving his pace and he just kept going. I just let him run because that’s the way he runs. I didn’t want to move too soon. I felt the pressure, but I just let my horse get comfortable, and I could feel when the company started to get a closer, he started to pick it up himself, so I was happy with that. At the quarter pole he just changed leads and he just kept going again.”
BOB BAFFERT, CAVE ROCK, WINNER: “I can’t remember running one, two, three, four, ever. The really good ones come around quicky and he’s always been different, he’s built a bit different than Arrogate (who sired two other winners in the afternoon.) he’s powerful, stronger and he’s quick. He runs with his head sort of low like Arrogate. He just keeps improving, he trains easily. I really don’t work him too fast, you have to count on their talent to get them there. Today those were some good horses behind him. Those colts, you are going to hear about them down the road. Right now, he’s what you need, he’s something that is right now and something that will be in for the next thirty days.
“The (partnership) is a fun group.. they have Speed Boat Beach and now this horse who are going to the Breeders’ Cup. This horse had to run to get to the Breeders’ Cup.”
MIKE PEGRAM, CAVE ROCK, WINNER: “He’s the real real deal. The first time I saw him was in Del Mar. Bob (Baffert) bought him. You look at him now, he’s everything a guy would want. He’s won two Grade 1’s. We’ll take it. It’s been a great 10 weeks and hopefully more fun to come in the springtime. We’ll find out what he’s made of four weeks from now if everything is okay.”