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Game Winner pulls away in stretch to win American Pharoah

In a photo provided by Benoit Photo, Game Winner and jockey Joel Rosario win the Grade I, $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes horse race Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif. (Benoit Photo via AP)

By BETH HARRIS

AP Racing Writer

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Game Winner pulled away in the stretch to win the $300,000 American Pharoah by 4 1/2 lengths Saturday and earn an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

The 2-year-old colt trained by Bob Baffert ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.77 at Santa Anita. Sent off as the 1-5 favorite, Game Winner returned $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10.

Gunmetal Gray returned $2.80 and $2.10, while Rowayton was another length back in third and paid $2.10 to show. Both are trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

Ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario, Game Winner improved to 3-0 in his young career. The colt was coming off a victory in the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 3, when he beat Rowayton by 1 1/2 lengths and heavily favored stablemate Roadster by 2 lengths.

Roadster has been regarded as Baffert's top 2-year-old. However, Game Winner is quickly making a name for himself. He won his career debut by 5 3/4 lengths Aug. 18 at Del Mar and came back 16 days later to score the Futurity upset.

"This horse tipped us off this summer that he was going to be a good one," Baffert said. "I don't plan to do too much with him before Breeders' Cup."

Game Winner dueled outside Rowayton before taking a short lead into the stretch. He then inched away under urging by Rosario past the eighth pole and pulled away from Gunmetal Gray.

It was Baffert's eighth career victory in the race previously known as the Norfolk and the FrontRunner Stakes, and renamed this year for his 2015 Triple Crown winner.

"Pretty cool and nice of Santa Anita to name a race after him," Baffert said.

The BC Juvenile will be run Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs.

In other Breeders' Cup preps:

- Bellafina romped to a 6 1/2-length victory in the $300,000 Chandelier Stakes under Flavien Prat.

Trained by Simon Callaghan, Bellafina ran 1 1/16 miles without blinkers in 1:44.59 and paid $3.80, $2.80 and $2.10 as the 4-5 favorite. Prat and Callaghan won the race last year.

Vibrance returned $6 and $3.40. Brill was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $3.40 to show.

Winner of three in a row, Bellafina earned a berth in the BC Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 2.

- Vasilika, the 8-5 favorite, won the $300,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes by a half-length with Prat in the saddle.

Trained and co-owned by Hollendorfer, Vasilika was claimed for $40,000 by her new owners in February and has won eight of nine since, including seven in a row.

She paid $5.20, $3 and $2.40. Vasilika earned an automatic berth to the BC Filly & Mare Turf. However, she would need to be nominated to the race for $100,000. By winning Saturday, that amount was reduced to $60,000 since entry fees are paid as part of the Win and You're In program.

Paved returned $4 and $2.80, while Cambodia paid $2.40 to show.

Updated September 29, 2018

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