By Steve Sherack
DEL MAR, CA – Following the unfortunate vet scratch of speedy morning-line favorite and 'TDN Rising Star' Jack Christopher (Munnings), unbeaten 'TDN Rising Star' Corniche (Quality Road) had things his own way on the front end and ran to the money as the 7-5 favorite for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert in Friday's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Del Mar.
Drawn widest of all in post 11, the $1.5-million OBS April topper shot out to the front beneath “Big Money” Mike Smith and cleared the field heading into the first turn. The Speedway Stables colorbearer sped through fractions of :23.03 and :46.15, kicked for home as the one to catch and kept finding down the lane to account for longshot Pappacap (Gun Runner) by 1 3/4 lengths. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Giant Game (Giant's Causeway) in third.
Corniche and Pappacap were also one-two across the line in Santa Anita's GI American Pharoah S. Oct. 1, the former's first try around two turns. Corniche previously rolled to a 'Rising Star' performance sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on debut at Del Mar Sept. 4.
This is the fifth Breeders' Cup Juvenile victory for Baffert and 18th Breeders' Cup win overall.
“I knew from the -hole that he was going to have to use him harder than he'd like to,” Baffert said. “Mike [Smith] is a great rider. I love him on a horse like that. You never know how good they are until you put them in a situation like that. He just kicked back in and held those horses off. It's so hard to win these races, especially when you have a favorite and you win. It's exciting. These young horses are what our whole program is about. It's a great win for the owners. I have tremendous clients.”
Baffert added, “Turning for home, this horse has a beautiful way of [going], he just, his movement, he just jumps a long ways. His mechanics, he almost has mechanics like American Pharoah. He's just got that long, loping stride. He covers a lot of ground.”
Baffert continued, “I felt bad for Chad Brown [trainer of Jack Christopher] when I heard that because I have been in those positions and you don't want to see that. You see horses scratching and it takes away from the Breeders' Cup–these races are really hard to win. You have to be lucky. You have to have a good horse. There's not a lot of margin for error.”
Smith, the all-time winningest rider in World Championships history, piloted his 27th Breeders' Cup winner aboard Corniche and third overall in the Juvenile.
“The only thing I was worried about was that he got hotter [before the race] than he ever had,” Smith said. “It just made me get calmer. I don't think I have ever been so calm in a big race. I just sat really still, he caught a flyer leaving the gate and just left him alone.”
As Medina Spirit's GI Kentucky Derby win remains in the balance due to a well-documented betamethasone positive, horses trained by Baffert were subject to enhanced scrutiny for this weekend's Championships. Furthermore, with Baffert banned from Churchill Downs Inc. racetracks for three years, Corniche didn't earn any points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in Friday's Juvenile, which offered 20-8-4-2 points.
“Well the Derby is a long ways off, so right now my focus was just getting here and we'll see how it plays out,” Baffert said. “And there's still a lot of things going on and so… and, really, there's not much to talk about that right now, just, like I said, the main thing is to keep him healthy, that's number one, we have a really good horse, and we have to keep him healthy and the Derby, that's a long ways off still, so a lot can happen between now and then and we'll see how it–we got to see how it plays out.”
Peter Fluor and K.C. Weiner's Speedway Stables have also campaigned the Baffert-trained GISW Collected, runner-up to Gun Runner in the 2017 GI Breeders' Cup Classic at this venue. The duo continued to show their support for Baffert in the post-race press conference.
“Actually, K.C. and I never thought about moving the horse to a different trainer,” Fluor said. “We talked to Bob right after we bought the horse, he liked the horse, and so the horse was always coming to Bob. And three races and kind of look how he's done, so, with a great deal of thanks to Bob, and that's where we are.”
Fluor added, “This race was such a big race for Corniche and what it means to him and his 2-year old standing. And we have said–and Bob's doing a great job and we have a better chance of winning this race with our friend Bob Baffert and that's what happened. So we're kind of enjoying moment and down the road we'll focus on that later on, but thank you.”
Corniche–the $1.5-million OBS April topper selected by Speedway advisor Marette Farrell–is one of 51 stakes winners/28 graded stakes winners/12 Grade I winners for Quality Road. Quality Road is also the sire of fellow Breeders' Cup winners: Caledonia Road, City of Light and Hootenanny. Corniche, a son of six-time GSW and GI Matriarch S. runner-up Wasted Tears (Najran), was led out unsold on a bid of $385,000 at KEESEP last year, but turned in a smooth sales breeze in :10 flat to become one of two horses to eclipse the seven-figure barrier in Ocala. Wasted Tears, also responsible for the late stakes-placed Coffee Crush (Medaglia d'Oro), had a filly by Mendelssohn in 2020. She brought $750,000 from B.B.E. at this year's Keeneland September sale. Speedway Stables and Baffert also teamed up for a win with Quality Road's 'Rising Star' Roadster in the 2019 GI Santa Anita Derby and a runner-up finish in the GI Malibu S.
Friday, Del Mar
TVG BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE PRESENTED BY THOROUGHBRED AFTERCARE ALLIANCE-GI, $1,840,000, Del Mar, 11-5, 2yo, c/g, 1 1/16m, 1:42.50, ft.
1–CORNICHE, 122, c, 2, by Quality Road
1st Dam: Wasted Tears (MGSW & GISP, $941,463),
2nd Dam: Wishes and Roses, by Greinton (GB)
3rd Dam: Anniversary Wish, by Beau's Eagle
'TDN Rising Star'. ($385,000 RNA Ylg '20 KEESEP; $1,500,000
2yo '21 OBSAPR). O-Speedway Stables LLC; B-Bart Evans &
Stonehaven Steadings (KY); T-Bob Baffert; J-Mike E. Smith.
$1,040,000. Lifetime Record: 3-3-0-0, $1,262,000. Werk Nick
Rating: A. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Pappacap, 122, c, 2, Gun Runner–Pappascat, by Scat Daddy.
O/B-Rustlewood Farm Inc (FL); T-Mark Casse. $340,000.
3–Giant Game, 122, c, 2, Giant's Causeway–Game for More, by
More Than Ready. ($500,000 Ylg '20 FTKSEL). O-West Point
Thoroughbreds and Albaugh Family Stables LLC; B-H. Allen
Poindexter (KY); T-Dale L. Romans. $180,000.
Margins: 1 3/4, 1HF, 2HF. Odds: 1.40, 15.10, 21.90.
Also Ran: Commandperformance, Oviatt Class-(DH), Pinehurst-(DH), American Sanctuary, Double Thunder, Barossa, Jasper Great, Tough to Tame. Scratched: Jack Christopher.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.
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