$1.5 Million Quality Road Colt Corniche Wires American Pharoah Field

A $1.5 million sales purchase in April, Speedway Stables’ Corniche ran like it on Friday at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., as he dictated terms throughout under Mike Smith to register an emphatic 3 ¼-length victory in Santa Anita’s Grade 1, $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes.  With Bob Baffert picking up his record 10th American Pharoah win, Corniche ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.75.

A Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier, Corniche, a Kentucky-bred colt by Quality Road, now has a fees-paid berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 5 at Del Mar.

Breaking from the rail in a field of seven, Corniche, who came off a scintillating first-out maiden score going 5 ½ furlongs on Sept. 4 at Del Mar, was pressed by stablemate Rockefeller to the quarter pole, dispatched of him turning for home and won in-hand in a very impressive effort.

“There’s just so much upside to this horse,” said Smith.  “This is what’s really exciting about him.  When he broke his maiden as impressive as he did, he just gave me that feeling that we weren’t even close to his full potential. … He’s a big colt and he carries a lot of flesh.  As he starts to get even fitter and harder inside, he’s gonna be a force to reckon with.”

The 2-5 favorite, Corniche paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10.

Owned by Peter Fluor’s Speedway Stables, LLC, Corniche, who is out of the Najran mare Wasted Tears, picked up $180,000 for his efforts, increasing his earnings to $222,000. Bred in Kentucky by Bart Evans and Stonehaven Steadings, Corniche was a $385,000 buyback at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, then was offered by De Meric Sales at the OBS Spring Sale of 2-year-olds in training, where he brought a final bid of $1.5 million.

“You never know until you send them two turns whether they’ll be able to handle it or not, and it looked like he handled it pretty well,” said Baffert.  “He’s got a great mind, so I’m pretty happy about that.  I loved how they both broke well and were forwardly placed, that’s where we like to be.  Down the backside, he was being chased by a really good horse (Rockefeller, who checked fourth)…”

When asked about the issue of Corniche not receiving what was to have been 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points due to the fact Churchill downs has issued an edict precluding any of Baffert’s Derby prospects from earning said points, he responded, “We’re just going to let the process play itself out and not think about that now.  The main thing is to keep them healthy and have them ready for the next dance.  I just focus on these horses day in and day out…”

Pappacap, who overtook Rockefeller at the top of the lane, finished well to be second under Joe Bravo and paid $6.80 and $4.20 while off at 13-1.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, early trailer Oviatt Class finished a half length back in third and paid $3.00 to show.

Fractions on the race were 23.55, 47.26, 1:11.91 and 1:37.85.

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