Trainer Bob Baffert scored his 12th Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) (VIDEO) victory Sept. 3 when Zayat Stables homebred American Pharoah posted an impressive gate-to-wire victory over Calculator in the seven-furlong test at Del Mar Racecourse.
A ridgling son of Pioneerof the Nile who had finished fifth in his only previous start, American Pharoah was off a step slow but then sent right to the lead by Victor Espinoza and never looked back, posting fast fractions of :22.72, :45.73, and 1:08.95 while extending his lead rounding the turn to complete the distance in 1:21.48 and winning by 4 3/4 lengths. The track record on the Polytrack artificial surface is 1:20.99 set by Goldencents on Aug. 24 of this year.
The winner paid $8.40, $5.80, and $4.00. Calculator was worth $11.60 and $5.40. Iron Fist, with Mike Smith aboard for Jerry Hollendorfer, finished third and returned $3.80, and 9-5 favorite Skyway ran fourth for trainer Mark Casse. The order was completed by Henry's Holiday, Red Button, Oh Button, Inexcess Time, and Holiday Camp,
While American Pharoah was out in front, he was variously chased first by longshot Inexcess Time and then Holiday Camp, who pressed the pace until a half mile was completed. But there was no catching the winner, who had come into the race off a bullet five-furlong work in :59 at Del Mar Aug. 27.
With the victory, American Pharoah joined 1977 Futurity winner Go West Young Man and River Speical ('92) as the only maiden winners in the 67-year history of the race.
Jockey Espinoza said by putting the winner on the lead, he was following instructions from Baffert, who was not at Del Mar but was represented by assistant Jim Barnes.
"Bob (trainer Bob Baffert) called me this morning and said 'Whatever you do, put him on the lead'," Espinoza said. "He broke a little slow, but I encouraged him and he made the front. Once he made the lead, I could feel he has that high cruising speed. He's a nice horse. He looks like a nice horse and he feels like one. He could be a good one."
"He was one of my best 2-year-olds coming down to Del Mar," Baffert told the Del Mar communications department via telephone. "But in his first race he acted up in the post parade, was really a mess and then ran poorly. After that my wife Jill looked at me and said 'That's one of your best 2-year-olds? It's going to be a long summer.' We took the blinkers off, put cotton in his ears and schooled him a lot. He trained well, we decided he was ready and we put him in there. Today, he behaved himself and showed what he could do. He did what we thought he'd do the first time."
American Pharoah, who had been bred by Ahmed Zayat's Zayat Stables in Kentucky and reported as being sold to Ingordo Bloodstock for $300,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August yearling sale, was highly touted for his career debut at 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar Aug. 9. With Martin Garcia aboard, American Pharoah pressed the pace throughout before weakening to finish fifth. The race was won by Om, who did not contest the Futurity, followed by Iron Fist and One Lucky Draw, and Calculator.
The victory improved American Pharoah's earnings to $181,500.
The Del Mar Futurity winner was produced from the Yankee Gentleman mare Littleprincessemma, who had been purchased by Zayat for $250,000 from the Woods Edge Farm, agent, consignment to the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale. Breeder Brereton C. Jones had consigned Littleprincessemma as a weanling to the 2006 Keeneland November sale where she was bought by Ben McElroy, agent, for $135,000.
Pioneerof the Nile, the Futurity winner's sire, was bred and raced by Zayat Stables, winning two grade I stakes, including the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), and finishing second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). A son of Empire Maker standing at WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky., where his 2014 fee was $20,000, Pioneerof the Nile is leading second crop sire in North America in 2014.