A lot of American Speed in Americah Pharoah's Pedigree
American Pharoah has trained sensationally well for the Rebel, and he’s already a Grade 1 winner at the 1 1/16-mile distance, winning the FrontRunner in dominant fashion last September over next-out graded stakes winners Calculator and Texas Red.
American Pharoah is sired by a good stamina influence in Pioneerof the Nile. In case anyone doesn't recall, Pioneerof the Nile was a multiple Grade 1 winner who made all ten of his career starts in two-turn route races, and finished a distant second to Mine That Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. A son of Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, Pioneerof the Nile has proven to be a very good young sire.
A look at the Thoro-Graph Stallion Profile for Pioneerof the Nile also indicates that he's been more successful with his routers than sprinters:
Offspring of Pioneerof the Nile win 19% routing versus 16% sprinting. They finish in the top three positions 48% routing versus 43% sprinting. He has sired nine North American stakes winners routing, versus just one sprinting. And the average Thoro-Graph speed figure of his offspring is 3.25 points faster routing than it is sprinting.
While that is all encouraging, the female side of American Pharoah’s pedigree is extremely speed and sprinter oriented.
American Pharoah's dam is Littleprincessemma. She made only two starts in her racing career. Debuting in a Churchill Downs Maiden Special Weight race at six furlongs, she led after an opening quarter mile in 21.41 seconds, before fading in the stretch to finish sixth. She came back going 5.5 furlongs in a maiden race at Saratoga and was eased through the stretch, and never competed again.
Besides American Pharoah, Littleprincessemma has had one other foal to race, that being a horse named Xixixi who has made 11 career starts, all of which at six furlongs.
Littleprincessemma is sired by Yankee Gentleman out of a mare named Exclusive Rosette. Yankee Gentleman pressed the pace in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint and once ran a 117 Beyer Speed figure going six furlongs in a stakes at Del Mar. Exclusive Rosette made all 17 of her career starts at six furlongs or less. 15 of those 17 starts came at distances shorter than six furlongs. She was a stakes winner at five furlongs, and her two other career wins came in wire-to-wire fashion at distances of five furlongs and 5.5 furlongs. In fact, Exclusive Rosette once started in a 4 furlong race at Timonium and pressed the pace, before fading.
Not only was the 2nd Dam of American Pharoah a confirmed speedball sprinter on the track, but she produced ten offspring, eight of her babies were winners, but not a single one of them ever won a route race. They were all sprinters. In fact, one of them was sired by Marlin, a horse who won the 1997 edition of the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano at the distance of 1 3/4 miles, and even with that Marlin influence, she still produced a horse who was a front-end sprinter.
The third dam of American Pharoah is Zetta Jet. She never started at a distance beyond six furlongs. As a broodmare, her highest earning offspring was Ciucchettone, he was a 4.5 furlong specialist at Los Alamitos and even competed in quarter horse races at the distance of 870 yards on a few occasions.
There is class in American Pharoah's up close tail female family with horses like Storm Wolf and Misty Rosette, but again, they were speedy front-end sprinters. The whole female family is virtually one big collection of sprinters.
It should be pointed out that American Pharoah finished strong when he won the Front Runner in his only route try, but he did capitalize on a favorable trip that day. Indeed, he set the pace in the Front Runner through a half mile in 47.27 seconds. By comparison, the fillies in the Chandelier Stakes ran a half mile in 46.97 seconds, at the same distance, on the same card, with the same run-up. According to Trakus, the filly who was positioned fifth after a half mile in the Chandelier, ran an identical half mile split to the one American Pharoah ran while he controlled a soft early pace in the Front Runner, before drawing off in the late stages and winning in excellent final time.
Truth be told, Texas Red was victimized badly by the slow early pace that American Pharoah set in the Front Runner. He closed valiantly to be a well beaten third, but came right back to crush the competition in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, winning by 6.5 lengths and paying a $29.80 win mutuel after closing from dead-last position into a hot pace (45.66 half mile)
The bottom line is that I view American Pharoah as a very talented horse. His pedigree is stamina on top and pure speed on the bottom, and he's already proven what he can do when he's able to control things up front going 8.5 furlongs. However, I'm very dubious of his chances in a race like the Kentucky Derby, where he will have to run hard every step of the way at ten furlongs, and almost certainly get no breathers while under a 126 pound weight assignment.
American Pharoah's trainer Bob Baffert has had tremendous success shipping to Oaklawn Park. In fact, Baffert's lifetime record in Graded Stakes races at Oaklawn is 28-14-3-5 (50% wins) and with a 52.14% profit per $1 bet. What's more, in four different instances, Baffert ran two horses in the same race. So, he's actually won 14 of the 24 total Graded Stakes races he's entered in there. When Bodemeister crushed his opposition in the 2012 Arkansas Derby, it was fellow Baffert trainee Secret Circle who finished second and completed the exacta.
I respect American Pharoah's talent, he's already a champion and he could well go on to have an excellent career. However, no matter how impressive he performs in this weekend's Rebel, I simply will not be including him anywhere in my wagers, in any ten furlong race, and especially one where he figures to get no early breathers.