Sat, 09/29/2018 - 13:47

September 29, 2018 | Source: TDN

‘TDN Rising Star’ Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}) handled two turns with ease and kept his perfect record in tact with yet another decisive victory Saturday in Santa Anita’s GI American Pharoah S., previously run as the GI FrontRunner S. This was Game Winner’s second success in a “Win and You’re In” race and, with this score, he has stamped himself as the early favorite for the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs Nov. 2.

Entering off a pair of bullet works in Arcadia, most recently drilling a best-of-63 half-mile in :47 2/5 Sept. 24, Game Winner was hammered down to 1-5 favoritism in this five-horse affair with Joel Rosario–who shipped in from New York to ride GI Awesome Again S. favorite Accelerate (Lookin at Lucky)–getting back aboard after piloting the colt to his debut win. Away well, the $110,000 KEESEP buy tugged his way up to challenge Rowayton (Into Mischief), breathing down his rival’s neck through opening splits of :23.43 and :47.50 with Gunmetal Gray (Exchange Rate) close behind. Game Winner drew even with the pacesetter with 5/16ths left to run and the pair distanced themselves from Gunmetal Gray entering the stretch. Rowayton tried his hardest to stick with his favored rival, but Game Winner shrugged him off in mid-stretched and charged clear to win as he pleased by 4 1/2 lengths. Gunmetal Gray re-rallied in late stretch, overtaking a tiring Rowayton to complete the exacta.

This was Hall of Famer Bob Baffert’s eighth win in this event over a 21-year span. He captured his first renewal with Souvenir Copy in 1997 and followed with Flame Thrower (2000), Kafwain (2002), Roman Ruler (2004), Lookin at Lucky (2009), Power Broker (2012) and Triple Crown hero and race namesake American Pharoah (2014). This was Rosario’s second win in this test, having won the 2011 renewal–when the race was known as the Norfolk S.–with Creative Cause.

“I can’t take credit for this horse,” Baffert said. “The Wests [owners Gary and Mary] and their team found this horse and trusted me with him. Clients put their trust in me. I just want to get [to the Breeders’ Cup] with a nice healthy horse. This horse tipped us off this summer that he was going to be a good one. He is strong and he still looks a little heavy. It’s exciting to have this horse. These horses sort themselves out. Circumstances dictate who gets there. I had one bullet here and I just want to keep him healthy. I don’t plan to do too much with him before the Breeders Cup. The good ones get there. I was very happy to win the first American Pharoah. Pretty cool and nice of Santa Anita to name a race after him. We had the same groom on this horse as American Pharoah [Eduardo Luna].”

“He’d been training well and we thought he’d like two turns,” said Gary West. “His family all liked a mile and a quarter, but you never know until they do it. I didn’t think he deserved to be that big of a favorite, but he ran great. We’re looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup for sure. I’ve been in the horse business about 40 years. All days are not like this one.”

Earning his ‘TDN Rising Star’ badge off a dominant 5 3/4-length graduation in his six-panel unveiling at Del Mar Aug. 18, Game Winner followed suit with a 1 1/2-length decision in the seven-furlong GI Del Mar Futurity Sept. 3 over Rowayton and his, at the time, more fancied stablemate and fellow ‘TDN Rising Star’ Roadster (Quality Road).