American Pharoah Stakes 2021 Picks: A favorite and a longshot

Bob Baffert has three runners in the Grade I American Pharoah but does he have the winner?
Bob Baffert has three runners in the Grade I American Pharoah but does he have the winner?

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Opening Day at Santa Anita is full of good races and the highlight is probably the Grade I American Pharoah. A race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, it has been the springboard for the likes of American Pharoah (for whom this race has been renamed) and Nyquist, both of whom went on to win the Triple Crown.

The Morning Line odds are listed below along with some thoughts from two of our team...

American Pharoah Stakes 2021 Racecard

PP 1


  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Mike Smith /
  • Trainer: Bob Baffert /
Morning Line Odds
PP 4

Oviatt Class

  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Kent J. Desormeaux /
  • Trainer: J. Keith Desormeaux /
Morning Line Odds
PP 6


  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Flavien Prat /
  • Trainer: Bob Baffert /
Morning Line Odds
PP 7


  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Joe Bravo /
  • Trainer: Mark Casse /
Morning Line Odds
PP 2

Flying Drummer

  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: John Velazquez /
  • Trainer: Bob Baffert /
PP 3


  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Tiaho Josue Pereira /
  • Trainer: Walther Solis /
PP 5

Joker Boy

  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Edwin Maldonado /
  • Trainer: Brian Koriner /

Neil's Take...

I'm not one to over complicate matters. One of the seven horses in the field posted a 98 Beyer Speed Figure on his debut. A 98. That is shall we say - pretty darn good. If that isn't enough to get your ears to prick up then how about this stat, he ran the fastest five-and-a-half furlong for any horse - of any age - in five years. That horse is Corniche (#1). Whether you like Bob Baffert or not, you have to admire his ability to train horses. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at the Morning Line Odds and think he's the correct pick. We all like to find that value to beat the betting pools but when one horse has shown itself to have just so much potential, I can't get past him for the win.

If I were to look for value then I'd take a close look at his stablemate, the Gun Runner colt Flying Drummer (#2). At 10-1 on the Morning Line, he's the second biggest price to outsider Joker Boy (who may well be fancied by my colleague further down the page). He's thought to be the third choice of the Baffert runners but how often do you get a chance to bet on a Bob horse at such long odds on the west coast in a small field? Two second-places so far have been solid runs but he's got some distance in his legs. If you wanted to longshot then I'd consider him.

I however don't. Happy to take Corniche and Corniche only and he's my only play on my Late Pick 5 ticket for Race 8.

Main: 1

Backup: None

Order of Preference: 1-6-4-2

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J.N's Take (as originally published in his Santa Anita Analysis column)

The Santa Anita Opening Day is a barnburner when it comes to “graded” races with “playoff implications.” In this race, like its counterpart Chandelier S., this one is a major contest … highlights on this Friday. Hope springs eternal for these colts as their connections are looking to grab both a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and Kentucky Derby Points (10-4-2-1).

As for Bob Baffert’s play in this $300k “signature” race, he sends Corniche #1 out of Quality Road, a son of Gun Runner in Flying Drummer #2, and a Medaglia d’Oro colt named Rockefeller #6 to the post. With nearly half of the field in Baffert’s care, it would be easy just to back any one of these 3 entries. After all, each of them ran well in their debuts, and each are ridden by accomplished jockeys—Big Money Mike, Johnny V, and SoCal’s leading pilot, Flavien Prat. What I want to try and do is beat them all, and I think I have a suitable pick in Brian Koriner’s Joker Boy #5.

I have spent a good bit of time extolling the virtues of his sire … one Practical Joke. The offspring out there have torn up the tracks across North America, and they are looking better and better as the year goes on. Undefeated in both his debut, and his follow-up attempt (@DMR), his conditioner saw his speed fig rise in early September. Coming in 3rd in this cycle, the situation is looking like even more promising when it comes to backing this one, and I am hoping that he can build off that “Non-G” $100k race he won. It was a sparkling performance to be sure. The 3rd place horse in that race already came back and won, so there is upside here in spades as veteran Edwin Maldonado takes the controls once again.

At a price of what is sure to be double-digits on the tote come post time, this is one to take seriously. If he truly has tactical ability, then that could be just the ticket against the Baffert Brigade. A victory for Koriner would be awfully sweet …

Wagering Recommendation: Trifecta Wheel, 5 w 1/2/6 w 1/2/6

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