Hero's Welcome, Police Escort For Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah's Return; To Parade During Stephen Foster

Jun 07, 2015 John Asher and Darren Rogers

Fewer than 24 hours after his tour de force triumph in the Belmont Stakes that made him racing’s first Triple Crown winner since 1978, Zayat Stables LLC’s American Pharoah is back at Churchill Downs and resting in his familiar stall at Barn 33.

The winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), the Preakness (GI) and Belmont Stakes (GI) will get a few days rest – along with plenty of treats and good wishes from visitors – following his 5 ½-length victory in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. That victory placed American Pharoah in the company of 11 other 3-year-old Thoroughbreds who previously captured the coveted three-race series of American classic races.

An H.E. “Tex” Sutton Forwarding Company flight carrying American Pharoah and several other horses that had competed in weekend races in New York arrived at Louisville International Airport early Sunday afternoon.

A large group of admirers and media members had gathered outside trainer Bob Baffert’s barn to greet the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown winner, and the entire group broke into applause when a van carrying their hero arrived on the Churchill Downs backside. Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes led the 3-year-old son of Pioneerof The Nile off the van around 1:15 p.m. (all times EDT).

'I went into this whole thing fairly confident,” Barnes said of the Triple Crown after giving American Pharoah a post-flight bath. “I knew he just needed to get a decent break, come out of the gate and get a fair chance to win it, and that’s absolutely what happened.”

When the flight carrying American Pharoah arrived at Louisville International Airport, the Triple Crown winner and Baffert’s stable pony Smokey were provided a police escort during their brief van ride from the airport to the Baffert barn. Along the way fans had gathered on porches alongside roadways near the track to cheer and wave to racing’s new hero.

“The feelings just go on and on; they just don’t stop,” Barnes said of his experience following American Pharoah’s Belmont Stakes victory. “Just coming here with the police escort and there were fans on the street waving – it’s a lot of roller-coaster emotions.”

Barnes said a near-constant stream of visitors and well-wishers had visited America’s newest Triple Crown winner since Saturday’s triumph at Belmont Park. He joked that the horse had gotten less sleep since the race than he had, but he added that American Pharoah has handled the post-race celebration as well as any aspect of his historic Triple Crown run.

“He probably had about two bags of carrots (since the race), along with his normal feed,” Barnes said. “But he came back good. He’s happy.”

Baffert’s colt will get some rest following his busy spring and a trio of Triple Crown wins in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes that extended his ongoing win streak to seven races. But he probably will not be away from the track for long.

“For the next four days he’ll be walking and then we re-evaluate the horse, see where he’s at and if Bob’s ready to go back to the track with him,” Barnes said. “Seeing how he came out of the race, I would think he would go right back to the track.”

One appearance has been set for the Triple Crown winner’s near-term schedule: American Pharoah is scheduled to parade before fans gathered at Churchill Downs on Saturday evening the “Downs After Dark” Stephen Foster Handicap celebration.  American Pharoah will parade before the assembled Churchill Downs fans during Saturday night’s program.

The Stephen Foster Handicap schedule also will include the annual presentation of engraved trophies earned by the Kentucky Derby’s winning owner, trainer, jockey and breeder.

Owner Ahmed Zayat also bred American Pharoah, so he will receive both the solid gold winner’s trophy and the smaller sterling silver replica that goes to the winning breeders. Winning jockey Victor Espinoza plans to be at Churchill Downs to personally accept his trophy. Plans for the four-time Kentucky Derby winner Baffert have not been finalized.

The Stephen Foster Handicap will be televised live by NBCSN. Saturday’s first race will be 6 p.m.


VICTOROUIS KISS MOON, STARS OF OLD FORESTER MINT JULEP WELL ON MORNING AFTER – The top three finishers of Saturday’s featured $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) came out of the race in good order.


Carl Pollard’s victorious Kiss Moon, whose dam Kiss the Devil triumphed in the 2003 edition of the Mint Julep, was doing very well, according to trainer David Vance.


               “She’s doing fine, she ate up good last night,” said Vance, who scored his first graded stakes victory since 2005 when My Trusty Cat won the Human Distaff (GI). “She’s just been resting and taking it easy. I was happy with the performance because this mare ran such a big race. This filly got the full 1 1/16 [miles] yesterday. It took her all to get there, but she got there. She can keep herself out of trouble; it’s very seldom that she gets herself in trouble.”


               Vance compared his now graded stakes-winning daughter of Malibu Moon to her dam who won this race 12 years ago.


               “Her mother more or less wanted to be on the lead,” he said. “This mare could take it either way depending on how fast the pace is or how she breaks. This one [Kiss Moon] got a bit of a temper, if you challenge her, she’ll challenge you. Her mother [Kiss the Devil] tore a pair of pants off me once, she was mean. She was okay if you didn’t back her up in a corner, if you did that she’d get a little bit wild.”


               Vance said Kiss Moon would probably run again in the next five to six weeks. Possible spots for the 5-year-old mare include the $150,000 Modesty Handicap (GIII) at Arlington International Race Course on July 11 or the $100,000 Indiana General Assembly Distaff at Indiana Grand on July 18.


               Jockey Corey Lanerie was aboard Kiss Moon for the Mint Julep victory.  Earlier on the card, Lanerie and Vance had teamed to win the fourth race with Allen Cherivtch and Edward Stanfield’s Katy Lied.


               Hit the Board StablesI’m Already Sexy, who was just a head away from winning the Mint Julep came out of the race well according to Wayne Catalano’s assistant trainer Ben Trask. The daughter of Ready’s Image could make her next appearance in the $50,000 Ellis Park Turf on July 4.


               “That spot would make the most sense,” Trask said. “Her owners are from here so she probably wouldn’t go to Monmouth.”


               Courtlandt Farm’s Strike Charmer, who has won three of her seven starts on the Matt Winn Turf Course, also came out of the race well according to trainer David Carroll.


               “She looked very good, no problems at all and she cleaned up her feed,” Carroll said. “I was disappointed. I thought we couldn’t have had a better trip than we did and credit to the winner, but she ran the race well and regroup. She loves it here, and runs well here.


“Her preferred trip is to be on the outside and make a run on the outside because she’s a small horse and gets intimidated by other horses when she’s on the inside and we were stuck down on the inside so in the end she was trying to get out. She always runs with her head cocked, she’s done that all her life. I don’t know why but she has. She always gives you 110 percent.”


Churchill Downs Barn Notes

Sunday, June 7, 2015

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               The homebred daughter of Smart Strike will probably travel to Saratoga with a strong of eight horses that Carroll plans to campaign at the upstate New York track.   


               “We’ll take her up there, the owners are from there,” he said. “That’s not to say she’ll run there, but I’m sure she’ll make an appearance. We’ve got Monmouth and other tracks up there, but there are no real plans at this point.”



CASSE’S NOBLE BIRD, SKY CAPTAIN POSSIBLE FOR STEPHEN FOSTER: John C. Oxley’s Noble Bird and Sky Captain remain under consideration for the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) according to Norman Casse, the assistant trainer and son of trainer Mark Casse.


Nobel Bird breezed a strong half-mile in :47.40 on Saturday morning.


“He breezed awesome, working as good as you can possibly work,” Casse said. “There’s still no 100-percent decision on what’s going on yet as far as who’s running, but we’ll have one in the Stephen Foster, possibly two. We just don’t know yet.”


Trainer Brad Cox said that he is leaning toward the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (GIII) on July 27 with Michael Langford’s Carve, but said that he could enter the horse in the Stephen Foster.


Probable starters in the Stephen Foster Handicap include WinStar FarmsCommissioner, Michael Lund Petersen’s Cat Burglar, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Lea, Gallant FarmsMajestic Harbor and James and Ywanchetta Driver’s Paganol.


Fields for two stakes races for 3-year-olds on the Stephen Foster program – the $100,000 Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, and the $100,000 Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf – are beginning to take shape.


Probable starters for the Matt Winn include Ackerley Brothers’ Farm’s Bold Conquest, Juddmonte Farm’s Fame and Power, Willis Horton’s Hillbilly Style, Six Column Stables, Randall Bloch, John Seiler and David Hall’s Island Town and Mellon Patch, Inc.’s Private Prospect. Likely starters for the Regret include Three Chimneys Farm’s Lady Zuzu, Orlyana FarmsMy Love Venezuela, Calumet Farm’s Return to Grace and Elm Racing LLC’s Urtheoneeyelove.


TRENDING: Jockeys Brian Hernandez Jr. and Corey Lanerie both enjoyed three wins on Saturday’s card. Hernandez won aboard Alert and Perky ($5), Impeached ($16.60) and Harass ($13.40) while Lanerie triumphed aboard Katy Lied ($11), Kiteta ($4.40) and Kiss Moon ($19.40).  The two finished a head apart in the Old Forester Mint Julep, with Lanerie aboard the victorious Kiss Moon and Hernandez in the saddle aboard runner-up I’m Already Sexy.  Eight-time Churchill Downs leading rider Lanerie leads all Spring Meet jockeys with 29 victories, two more than current runner-up Julien Leparoux.


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