May 19, 2022

Corniche leads Bob Baffert triple play in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race

View Original Notice ? Corniche leads Bob Baffert triple play in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race

Bob Baffert will send out three horses Friday in the $2 million Juvenile on the opening day the 38th Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, but Corniche, a $1.5 million yearling purchase, will draw most of the attention.

Baffert is in search of his record-setting fifth victory in the Juvenile, and in Corniche he appears to have the horse that can get him to the winner’s circle. Corniche is 2 for 2 and has won his starts, including the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita, by a combined 7 1/2 lengths.

The son of Quality Road, who’ll be ridden by Mike Smith, is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line behind Jack Christopher’s 9-5, but he’ll have to overcome the outside post in the 12-horse field. The latter is the only horse that’s posted a Beyer Speed Figure of more than 100 (102) this year.

Baffert will also have Pinehurst (8-1) and Barossa (10-1) in the race, but they’ll need to pick it up a notch to beat their stablemate or some of the other top 2-year-olds in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Corniche and Pinehurst both galloped over Del Mar’s main surface Wednesday morning, after which the Breeders’ Cup notes team caught up with Baffert and asked about his trio of runners.

“They both like this racing surface,” said Baffert, currently tied with D. Wayne Lukas for most victories in the Juvenile. “I wanted to bring Pinehurst into this race fresh after his (Del Mar) Futurity win. The distance is the question with him. Corniche is a really nice colt. His last race (American Pharoah) set him up nicely.”

Barossa, by leading sire Into Mischief, comes into the Juvenile off a half-length victory in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita on Oct. 15.

“He’s got a little more of a foundation with three races,” Baffert said. “I liked his win around two turns, so we’re taking a little chance with him in this race. The pace could be hot, especially with the Chad Brown horse (Jack Christopher) breaking from the rail.

“But you know, these are all good horses. It’s why there is a championship at stake. And the margin for victory is so small. It’s so tough to win these races.”

Jack Christopher, a $135,000 yearling purchase, will need to break alertly from the rail if he hopes to make it 3 for 3 in his career. He won the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 2 and has won his two starts by a combined 11 1/2 lengths.

“He’s never had to take a lot of dirt yet, but the horse is very smart,” jockey Jose Ortiz told Breeders’ Cup publicity. “That’s one of the things I really love about him. He’s very laid back, very intelligent and very relaxed all the time. Last time, I pulled him back a little bit and he took a tiny bit of dirt before I quickly put him in the clear and he didn’t overreact too much. I don’t think we’re going to be facing any dirt.”

‘Future Stars Friday’

The opening day of the Breeders’ Cup, dubbed “Future Stars Friday,” also includes the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, which drew a short field of six. The Steve Asmussen-trained Echo Zulu is the 4-5 morning-line favorite off three victories, including two Grade I stakes, by a combined 16 3/4 lengths.

“She’s coming into the race in excellent shape,” Asmussen said of the daughter of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner. “It would mean everything to have a champion for Gun Runner in his first crop and it would be a very proud accomplishment.”

Also on tap Friday are a trio of $1 million grass races, including the Juvenile Turf Sprint, the Juvenile Turf and the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

First post is 11:55 a.m. and the first Breeders’ Cup race, the Juvenile Turf Sprint, is scheduled to go postward at 2:50 p.m.

Two out of the Turf

United and Domestic Spending, entered in Saturday’s $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf, were scratched Thursday morning.

The Richard Mandella-trained United was withdrawn because of swelling on a suspensory.

“The good news is that we’ll just give him a rest and bring him back next year,” Mandella said.

Domestic Spending, trained by Chad Brown, was scratched because of swelling in his left foreleg.

BREEDERS’ CUP

What: 14 championship races worth $31 million in purses

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Del Mar

TV times: Friday, 2 p.m. (NBC Sports Network); Saturday, 11:30 a.m. (NBCSN) and 5 p.m. (NBC Ch. 4)

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