Santa Anita Barn Notes: 4 Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races on Schedule


G1 Awesome Again

ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 26, 2018)–America’s top rated older horse, Accelerate, and last year’s Eclipse Champion 3-year-old, West Coast, are set to face off at a mile and one eighth in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.  One of four Grade I, Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Races on Saturday, the winner of the Awesome Again, which attracted a field of six 3-year-olds and up, will earn a fees-paid berth into the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 3.

Trained by John Sadler and a winner of three Grade I stakes (all at a mile and a quarter) this year, including a record setting 12 ½ length score in the mile and a quarter Pacific Classic Aug. 18 at Del Mar, Accelerate is the early favorite to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Bob Baffert’s West Coast, idle since running second in the Grade I Dubai World Cup March 31, broke his maiden in his second start at Santa Anita in March, 2017 and counts the Grade I Travers Stakes in 2017 as his biggest career win.


Owner:  Hronis Racing, LLC

Trainer:  John Sadler

A 5-year-old full horse by Lookin At Lucky, he has truly flourished as an older horse, evidenced by his four graded stakes scores this year:  The Grade II San Pasqual here on Feb. 3, the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 10, the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita May 26 and the afore mentioned Grade I Pacific Classic Aug. 18.  With regular rider Victor Espinoza going to the sidelines due to injury in July, eastern-based Joel Rosario was aboard for the first time in his most recent start and will ride him back on Saturday.  With a lifetime mark of 20-8-5-5, Accelerate has earnings of $2,312,480 and is undoubtedly the horse to beat in the Awesome Again.


Owner:  Gary & Mary West

Trainer:  Bob Baffert

Although idle since running second in the Grade I Dubai World Cup March 31, Baffert has proven time and again that he can win races of this magnitude off of works alone, evidenced by McKinzie’s score in last Saturday’s Grade I Pennsylvania Derby.  A winner of five consecutive races last year, culminating in rousing Grade I tallies in the Travers (Aug. 26) and Pennsylvania Derby (Sept. 23), West Coast was subsequently a close third behind eventual Horse of the Year Gun Runner in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 4 and was second to Gun Runner again in this year’s Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational Jan. 27, a race in which he earned a career-top 117 Beyer Speed figure.  By Flatter out of the Honour and Glory mare Caressing, West Coast will be reunited with Mike Smith, who hasn’t ridden him since his last win, which came four starts back in the Pennsylvania Derby.


Race 11 of 12 Approximate post time 5 p.m. PT


  1. Shades of Victory–Martin Pedroza–121
  2. Isotherm–Geovanni Franco–121
  3. Prime Attraction–Kent Desormeaux–121
  4. The Lieutenant–Flavien Prat–121
  5. West Coast–Mike Smith–123
  6. Accelerate–Joel Rosario–125

American Pharaoh Stakes:

ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 26, 2018)–Bob Baffert’s Game Winner, who upset his highly regarded stablemate Roadster in winning the Grade I Del Mar Futurity Sept. 3, heads a field of five juveniles going  1 1/16 miles in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita.

Originally run as the Norfolk and most recently contested as the FrontRunner Stakes, the American Pharoah, one of four Grade I, Breeder’s Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Races, is named for Baffert’s brilliant 2015 Triple Crown winner, who annexed the FrontRunner in September of 2014.


Owner:  Gary & Mary West

Trainer:  Bob Baffert

A 5 ¾ length first out maiden winner going six furlongs on Aug. 18, this Kentucky-bred colt by Candy Ride rallied from off the pace to take the seven furlong Del Mar Futurity by 1 ½ lengths over Jerry Hollendorfer’s Rowayton.  Baffert’s Roadster, who was heavily favored, finished third, two lengths behind his stablemate.  Dispatched at 8-5, Game Winner was ridden for the first time by Mario Gutierrez in the Futurity, however he’ll be handled for the first time on Saturday by eastern-based Joel Rosario.  Like all but one of his rivals, Game Winner will be trying two turns for the first time in what will be his third career start.


Owner:  OXO Equine, LLC

Trainer:  Jerry Hollendorfer

An impressive 1 ¾ length first out maiden winner going five furlongs on July 21, this Into Mischief colt showed brilliant speed going seven furlongs in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity, but was run down in the final sixteenth of a mile by Game Winner at odds of 7-1.  Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke in his first two starts, Rowayton will be ridden for the first time by eastern-based Florent Geroux on Saturday.  Like Game Winner, Rowayton will also be making his third career start.


Owner:  West Point Thoroughbreds and Hollendorfer, LLC

Trainer:  Jerry Hollendorfer

Although he was beaten some 10 ¼ lengths by Roadster in his six furlong debut July 29, this gray or roan colt by Exchange Rate relished a flat mile on Aug. 22 at Del Mar, winning off by 6 ¾ lengths at odds of 5-1.  Flavien Prat will climb aboard for the first time, as Gunmetal Gray had been ridden in both of his previous starts by Drayden Van Dyke.


Owner:  Three Chimneys Farm

Trainer:  Bob Baffert

The “Other Baffert” in the American Pharoah lineup, Much Better was a dazzling first out maiden winner going 6 ½ furlongs on Sept. 20 at Los Alamitos and will be ridden back by Joe Talamo on Saturday.  Although and impressive winner as the 4-5 favorite in Orange County, he will unquestionably be facing tougher competition in the American Pharoah.


Race 6 of 12 Approximate post time 2:30 p.m. PT

  1. Rowayton–Florent Geroux – 122
  2. Gunmetal Gray–Flavien Prat–122
  3. Jefe–Kent Desormeaux–122
  4. Game Winner–Joel Rosario – 122
  5. Sigalert–Tyler Baze–122

Rodeo Drive Stakes:

 ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 26, 2018)–In what could be the most competitive Grade one event of the day, Saturday’s $300,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes has attracted eight fillies and mares three and up and is headed by Jerry Hollendorfer’s streaking Vasilika and Tom Proctor’s classy Cambodia.

Fresh off a 1 ½ length tally over Cambodia in the Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf Sept. 1, the amazing Vasilika, who was claimed for $40,000 eight starts back, is in search of her seventh consecutive victory.

A four-time graded stakes winner, Cambodia, like Visilika, will be seeking her first Grade I win in the Rodeo Drive in what will be her first-ever start at Santa Anita.


Owner:  All Schlaich Stables, LLC and Hollendorfer

Trainer:  Jerry Hollendorfer

A maiden $25,000 claiming winner in her eighth career start on Jan. 26, 2017, Visilika has ascended the class ladder in dramatic fashion for Hollendorfer.  Off at 4-1 in a field of 11 in the Grade II Mabee Stakes, she rallied boldly from off the pace to notch her first-ever graded stakes win.  With Flavien Prat set to ride her back, her connections will be out to prove the win was no fluke in what will be only her second graded stakes assignment.  With five wins and a second from six tries over the Santa Anita turf and Prat a perfect six for six with her, Visilika, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by Skipshot, appears to be at the top of her game.


Owner:  Winter Quarter Farm

Trainer:  Tom Proctor

An impressive 2 ½ length winner of Del Mar’s Grade II Yellow Ribbon Stakes two starts back on Aug. 4, Cambodia was dispatched as the 4-5 favorite in Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes Sept. 1 and was perhaps unlucky to lose under regular pilot Drayden Van Dyke.  Far back early, she had to wait for room turning for home and unleashed a furious rally but ended up second, 1 ½ lengths behind Vasilika at the wire.  Classy and consistent, Cambodia will no doubt vie seriously for top billing on Saturday.  A 6-year-old War Front mare, out of the Smart Strike mare Sassifaction, Cambodia has an overall mark of 19-7-1-6, with earnings of $819,913.


Race 10 of 12 Approximate post time 4:30 p.m. PT

  1. Paved–Joel Rosario–120
  2. Tisbutadream–Tyler Conner–121
  3. Beau Recall–Joe Talamo–123
  4. Queen Blossom–Florent Geroux–121
  5. Amboseli–Stewart Elliot–121
  6. Vasilika–Flavien Prat–123
  7. Sophie P–Kent Desoremeaux–125
  8. Cambodia–Drayden Van Dyke–123

Special early first post time for a 12-race card on Saturday is at 12 noon.  Admission gates will open at 10 a.m. and parking lots open to the public at 9:30 a.m.  For additional information, please visit or call (626) 574-RACE.


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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