Handicapping Insights: American Pharoah’s first winner comes overseas on turf

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 16th, 2019

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah’s first foal to race won on the turf in Ireland at Naas on Sunday. Trained by Aidan O’Brien and owned by the partnership of Peter Brant and Coolmore Farm, MONARCH OF EGYPT romped by 2 ¾ lengths and after one more prep, will be pointed towards Royal Ascot in June.

American Pharoah never raced on the turf and has an American dirt pedigree. But he was internationally accepted in the market place with his first crop of weanlings two years ago, his yearlings last year and his two-year-olds this year. For example, Monarch of Egypt cost $750,000 at Keeneland last September. They appear to be precocious and American Pharoah has a pair entered at Aqueduct on Wednesday and one on Friday.

His reception at auction, both in America and Europe, proves the lies about how the market will resist American dirt horses that race on Lasix when they go to stud. No matter what is said about race day medication, our dirt horses are well received all over the world.

Last August, M.V. Magnier made a remarkable statement about the American dirt horse that proves the genius of the Coolmore/Ballydoyle operation: “My grandfather founded Ballydoyle on American dirt horses – that’s where Galileo comes from, that’s where Sadler’s Wells came from. It all goes back to the American Classic horse. And we strongly believe in American Pharoah. He really could be the next big thing. Be it him, or Justify, we think that a horse of that type can once again have a transforming impact on European bloodlines.”

It’s still early but the American Pharoah offspring who have gone through the auction ring look sensational. They are perfectly proportioned and when they showed up in the training sales, they floated over the ground; going faster than they looked. Now is the fun part where we get to see his offspring on the track. Early two-year-olds are not always the best two-year-olds so Saratoga and Del Mar should provide us with a glimpse of the ones that have the highest expectations. It should be a lot of fun and is akin to following top draft picks in basketball and football when they begin their professional careers.

The Arkansas Derby (G1) was run on an extremely sloppy track but the form of the race held up very well. OMAHA BEACH was sent off as the 17/10 favorite while IMPROBABLE was 19/10. Omaha Beach had the advantage of breaking his maiden in fast time on a sloppy track at Santa Anita and that, plus Mike Smith, might have been the difference in his one-length victory

In the Rebel Stakes (G2), Smith opened up a clear lead on the far turn and held on grimly to beat last year’s juvenile champion Game Winner. On Saturday, he had Omaha Beach about mid-pack but made a big move down the backstretch to force everyone’s hand. Jose Ortiz, riding Improbable for the first time, had to press the button earlier than he wanted and Smith’s decision was the winning one. I can’t decide if Smith is cunning or canny. Probably both.

Unfortunately for Ortiz, it is the third time in the past three years that Smith has come out on top in big races where the two faced off. In the 2017 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), Ortiz tried to come up the inside aboard ELATE but Smith, who had the lead with ABEL TASMAN, tightened up the hole and won by a head despite Ortiz’s claim of foul. Last year, right back at Saratoga going 1 1/8 miles in the Personal Ensign with the same rider assignments, Smith got the jump on him turning for home and when Ortiz cruised up alongside in the deep stretch, the two appeared to make contact. Incredibly, there was no steward’s inquiry but Ortiz’s claim of foul was disallowed when it was ruled that he came in while Smith came out.

The same two were back at it at Oaklawn Park and Smith’s early move proved to be the winning one. The regular rider of Roadster, winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Smith now has to choose between the two.