With only one week until the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI), Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Preakness Stakes (GI) winner American Pharoah stepped up his training on Saturday morning with a 1 ½-mile gallop on the Churchill Downs main track at 8:30 a.m. ET.
"It was another good day,” said Jorge Alvarez, American Pharoah’s regular exercise rider. “He was a little more aggressive this morning and wanted to do more, but I just kept doing my thing. I’m feeling more excited than nervous. We just feel that we have the right horse and he’s doing well. We’re all staying positive.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes also liked what he saw and maintains a relaxed and positive attitude.
“We’re back to our normal training routine and he looked good again,” Barnes said. “We feel no nerves; we’re just doing our job. We get more anxious the closer to the race, but there’s a difference between anxious and nervous.”
Bob Baffert is scheduled to fly into Louisville Saturday night from his Southern California base to oversee his string of 12 horses stabled at Churchill the following morning. Baffert confirmed via text Saturday morning that American Pharoah would gallop Sunday and breeze at Churchill Downs on Monday.
In other Belmont Stakes news, Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice, seventh in the Kentucky Derby, galloped two miles on the main track with exercise rider Faustino Aguilar up for trainer Dale Romans.
“We’re going into the race with no physical excuses,” Romans said. “If he’s good enough then he’ll win. He’s fit and he’s ready to go the distance.”
Keen Ice will likely breeze a half-mile on Tuesday morning before leaving for Belmont.
BELMONT STAKES POSSIBLE FIELD – The possible 10-horse Belmont Stakes lineup (with jockey and trainer): Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah (Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert); Blue Grass champ and Kentucky Derby 10thCarpe Diem (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Blue Grass fourth and Kentucky Derby 11thFrammento (Mike Smith, Nick Zito); Wood Memorial and Kentucky Derby 4thFrosted (Joel Rosario, Kiaran McLaughlin); Louisiana Derby 4th and Kentucky Derby 7thKeen Ice (Kent Desormeaux, Dale Romans); Peter Pan winner Madefromlucky (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Florida Derby champ and Kentucky Derby 6thMateriality (undecided, Todd Pletcher); UAE Derby winner and Kentucky Derby 8thMubtaahij-IRE (Irad Ortiz Jr., Mike de Kock); Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve (Gary Stevens, Dallas Stewart); and recent Belmont Park first-level allowance winner The Truth Or Else (Edgar Prado, Kenny McPeek).
FANS INVITED TO WATCH SPECIAL 8:30-8:45 A.M. TRAINING FOR BELMONT CONTENDERS – With Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah and three other Belmont Stakes contenders stabled on the grounds, Churchill Downs Racetrack is offering a special 8:30-8:45 a.m. training period for those horses through Tuesday. Additionally, area horse racing fans are invited to watch those colts train from the first floor of the facility, including the new Courtyard area, free of charge.
Churchill Downs Racetrack will open its Gate 17 entrance between 8-9 a.m. each morning through Tuesday so the public can watch Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah and rival Keen Ice prepare for the 1 ½-mile third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown – the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI) on Saturday, June 6.
Churchill Downs’ concessionaire Levy Restaurants will have coffee, juice, soda, water and doughnuts available for purchase near the Aristides Garden. Also, video of the exercises will be shown on the Big Board and infield video screens.
Those unable to attend can watch an online live stream of the daily exercises at http://www.kentuckyderby.com/workouts/live from 8:30-8:45 a.m. through Tuesday. Also, clips of the activity will be uploaded on the Kentucky Derby YouTube channel. A graphic with each horse’s name will appear on the screen with the corresponding horse, although a majority of the focus will be on American Pharaoh.
SPECIAL BELMONT STAKES DAY BOX SEAT PACKAGE – Churchill Downs has a special box seat package for the June 6 Belmont Stakes simulcast. For $24, fans can get an undercover box seat, official program, a domestic beer or souvenir soda and a custom, limited-edition Kentucky Derby 141 T-Shirt that features a victorious American Pharaoh. Fans can purchase the package by visiting the online box office at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
CASSE READIES STAKES STARS – Although Conquest Curlinate is out of consideration for the Belmont, trainer Mark Casse will likely have a stakes presence on the Belmont Stakes undercard. The Casse-trained duo of Tepin and Noble Bird breezed Saturday and are likely stakes-bound for Belmont Park next Saturday.
Robert E. Masterson’s Tepin breezed a half-mile in :48.40 over the main track on Saturday. Norman Casse, assistant to his father, said that the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII) winner is on target for the $700,000 Just A Game (GI) on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Also training for Casse was John C. Oxley’s Noble Bird who breezed four furlongs in :48.80. Last week when the homebred son of Birdstone worked, Casse said that it was “about as good as I’ve seen a horse work,” and was pleased with his work on Saturday as well.
“He worked extremely well,” Casse said. “We still have no definite plans as of yet as far as where he will run next, but we’re leaning toward the Met Mile.”
Casse had previously said that Noble Bird would likely start next in either the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (GI) or the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs on June 13. His last start was a close second behind Protonico in the Alysheba (GII) on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.
Casse also gave an update on Danzig Moon, stating that he will likely have one start before running in the $1 million Queen’s Plate on July 5 at Woodbine.
“We’ll give him one more race beforehand, but we just don’t know where yet,” Casse said.
FAR RIGHT TO TARGET OHIO DERBY – Harry T. Rosenblum and Robert V. LaPenta’s Far Right, 15th in the Kentucky Derby, is set to make his next start in the $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 20 according to trainer Ron Moquett.
"He’s been doing perfect; he’s a happy boy,” Moquett said. The son of Notional will likely face Christopher T. Dunn, Glenn K. Ellis and Ron Paolucci’s War Story, 16th in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Tom Amoss.
MR. Z BACK TO WORK – Calumet Farm’s Mr. Z breezed for the first time since his fifth-place finish in the May 16 Preakness Stakes (GI). The son of Malibu Moon breezed a half-mile Saturday in :49 for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas said on May 21 that Mr. Z would receive a 30-to-40 day break, but those plans have clearly changed.
BOREL OFF ALL MOUNTS DUE TO ANKLE INJURY – Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel is off all mounts on Saturday’s card with an ankle injury that occurred when he was unseated while breezing a horse for William “Buff” Bradley on Saturday morning. Agent Jerry Hissam reported that Borel’s ankle was swollen and he would undergo an MRI at nearby Jewish Hospital.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Guests attending this weekend’s Louisville Regional for the 2015 NCAA Baseball Tournament at neighboring Jim Patterson Stadium will receive free general admission to Churchill Downs Racetrack by showing their game ticket or ticket stub. … The weekly “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” continues Sunday in Churchill Downs’ ITW area on the second floor of the Clubhouse. Bettors can enter for $35 ($30 for TSC Elite members) and are required to make mythical $2 Win/Place bets on Races 3-8. The highest bankroll will win a $1,000 cash voucher or free entry to the Churchill Downs Challenge on June 13. Second place is a $500 voucher and third is a $250 voucher. Registration takes place Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the top of the Gate 17 escalators.