Analysis: Favorites strong in American Pharoah, Chandelier

September 28, 2018 11:09am
Choosing the Bob Baffert-trained Game Winner in the Grade 1, $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park may initially sound like the “boring” choice. After all, this is a short 6/5 favorite without any route experience.

However, Game Winner looks like a winner indeed on paper coming into this race, as the distance really is not a concern based on how he has run before.

Earlier in the month, the son of Candy Ride relaxed beautifully in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) at seven furlongs. Here is another look at the race below. 

The fact Game Winner did not win in such a flashy way bodes well for his routing future. The runoff leader Rowayton rocketed to a four-length lead, while Game Winner settled in fourth, just outside stablemate Roadster.

When the time came on the far turn, Roadster and Game Winner moved in tandem for a little bit, before Rowayton attempted to show another gear in the stretch.

Game Winner steadily mowed down Rowayton and must be given credit for catching an uncontested leader through moderate fractions. The grinding style displayed in the Del Mar Futurity should help him become a successful router.

In terms of pedigree, Game Winner also shows no obvious shortcomings, either, as Candy Ride is known as a route sire and the dam Indyan Giving is sired by A.P. Indy.  

Game Winner is not an exciting choice for bettors, but there is no reason to believe he cannot string together a third win. The Pace Projector puts him in a perfect stalking position, third and a few lengths off speed horses Rowayton and Gunmetal Gray.

Rowayton gained attention for his inability to switch leads in the stretch, and some observers believe if he does switch leads, it will turn the tables for him. But it is not that simple. For one, does anyone know for sure if the problem is corrected?

Two, Rowayton runs like a sprinter. He eagerly took a four-length lead, while a true router is more likely to run with the pack and hold a one or two-length advantage.

When the time came to finish the race, Rowayton admittedly offered something in reserve. But the lack of a lead switch hurt him, and if Rowayton is going to fail to switch leads again in a route, it will hurt him even more as he gets tired.

Furthermore, Rowayton is a son of Into Mischief out of an Indian Charlie mare, so the bloodlines hint at sprinting. He will need to prove himself capable of two turns.

Gunmetal Gray is a better alternative for the win, as he already owns a two-turn route win at Del Mar when he broke his maiden by over six lengths.

Admittedly, Gunmetal Gray faced a soft field. But he looked good settling off Dark Prince and accelerating when asked. He is a proven success at routing, and that is more than the others can say.

The TimeformUS Pace Projector puts Gunmetal Gray and Rowayton on the lead, and Gunmetal Gray will enjoy the advantage of flanking his rival from the outside. Once Rowayton realizes this is a route distance and folds, Gunmetal Gray can try to open up.

Besides Rowayton, Jefe and Sigalert are also both viable options for underneath slots, assuming one really wants to play a trifecta in a five-horse field.  

Chandelier Stakes

Bellafina has shown hints of something special heading into the Grade 1, $300,000 Chandelier Stakes, and that is not a statement thrown around this blog lightly.

Trained by Simon Callaghan, the 2-year-old Quality Road filly overpowered the Sorrento Stakes (G2) field at Del Mar by over four lengths, before doing the same in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) with one more furlong added. She looked amazing.

For the sake of a deeper analysis though, here is a cross-examination of the latter race.

Coming out of the gate, Bellafina seemed content to sit off the Baffert-trained Mother Mother, as the longshot Watch Me Burn showed speed and folded.

As the race went on, Bellafina just inhaled Mother Mother, for lack of a better term. Then she drew clear in the stretch, while Mother Mother spun her wheels in second.

Brill initially ran outside Bellafina on the far side and tried to go with the pair, but she became discouraged when Bellafina and Mother Mother went too fast. In the stretch run, she also failed to catch a tired Mother Mother for second. She is hard to trust.

In other words, Bellafina simply appears unstoppable, at a sprint distance anyway.

If there is one knock against Bellafina, like Rowayton, Bellafina does not switch leads turning for home. However, she won by over four lengths in two straight graded stakes races so far, so it is possible her raw talent will overcome this flaw. It might need to. 

Those searching for a newcomer will find one in in Der Lu, who makes her second start for Baffert after winning by just over three lengths in a maiden sprint.

Der Lu finished her successful debut in 1:17.92. For comparison, an allowance race for older fillies finished in 1:18.20 four races later, so Der Lu ran well for her age.

Can Der Lu route? Her pedigree offers little indication. Orb works as a good distance influence, as he won the Kentucky Derby in 2013. However, the Forestry mare Taboo underneath may cross that out, as that is a sprinting name.

Horses tend to improve in their second lifetime start, and Bellafina at least has not beaten Der Lu yet. If any of these fillies upset, maybe it will be Der Lu.

Del Mar May, who finished second to Brill and Bellafina in her only two starts, is a threat to complete the exacta or trifecta. Keep in mind, she is still a maiden.

Vibrance is overmatched in this spot, and will lose by double-digit lengths.

At first glance, 9/5 odds may not feel like value. It depends on the horse, though. Bellafina could be a special talent, and if she overpowers this field at 9/5, those odds will feel like a gift. Then again, the public likely will bet her down a bit lower. 

Use Der Lu as a backup on horizontals, and consider the rest underneath.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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