ARCADIA, Calif. — A gutty runner-up in two summertime starts, Bob Baffert’s highly regarded Spielberg looms the horse to beat in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita. For 2-year-olds at a mile and one sixteenth, the American Pharoah has attracted a field of eight.
Most recently second, beaten 1 ¾ lengths in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity going seven furlongs on Sept. 7, Spielberg, a $1 million Keeneland September Yearling, will try two turns for the first time and be ridden for the first time by eastern-based Luis Saez.
Third in the Del Mar Futurity, trainer Ryan Hanson’s Weston, a Grade II winner going six furlongs in his second start, retains the services of Drayden Van Dyke, while trainer Rafael Becerra’s Touchdown Brown, who owns the best last-out Beyer Speed figure in the field, is a California-bred facing open company for the first time.
The American Pharoah, named for Baffert’s 2015 Triple Crown winner, is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier to the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 6 at Keeneland.
Owner: SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC, et al
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Second twice to Del Mar Futurity winner Dr. Schivel, Spielberg dug in gamely late while clearly second best. In what will be his third start, he’ll try to provide Baffert with his record 10th American Pharoah victory.
Owner: Chris Drakos & Ryan Hanson
Trainer: Ryan Hanson
Ridden in all three of his starts by Drayden Van Dyke, this bargain $7,000 Keeneland September Yearling showed brilliant speed in his June 21 debut here, winning by 1 ¼ lengths going 4 ½ furlongs. From there, he fought gamely to prevail by a neck in the Grade II Best Pal Stakes going six furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 8 and was subsequently third, beaten 5 ½ lengths in the Del Mar Futurity after vying head and head for the early lead. Trained and co-owned by Ryan Hanson, who is married to Santa Anita simulcast television personality Michelle Yu, Weston is battle-tested and retains the services of Van Dyke.
Owner: Edward Brown, Jr., Alan Klein & Phillip Lebherz
Trainer: Rafael Becerra
The lone California-bred in the lineup, this colt by Cairo Prince was ultra impressive in his 4 ½ furlong debut on June 19, winning by 5 ½ lengths as the 3-2 favorite. Away awkwardly in the 5 ½ furlong Graduation Stakes on Aug. 2, he never got untracked and finished last, beaten 5 ½ lengths in a field of seven. Ridden for the first time by upstart Juan Hernandez in the six furlong I’m Smokin Stakes Sept. 4, Touchdown Brown was second, beaten a half length in a resolute effort that provided him with a lofty 75 Beyer Speed figure. With Hernandez back aboard, he looms dangerous going two turns in his fourth career start.
The Grade I American Pharoah Stakes post positions
Jockeys and weights
Race 8 of 11. Approximate post time 4 p.m. PT
1. Touchdown Brown—Juan Hernandez—122
2. Rombauer—Mike Smith—122
3. Dyn O Mite—Victor Espinoza—122
4. Notable Exception—Abel Cedillo—122
5. Spielberg—Luis Saez—122
6. Get Her Number—Flavien Prat—122
7. Weston—Drayden Van Dyke—122
8. Waspirant—Umberto Rispoli—122
First post time for an 11-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Although there is no public admittance, Santa Anita’s livestream video is free of charge at santaanita.com.
Photo: Weston Credit: Benoit