Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Preakness Stakes (GI) winner American Pharoah, preparing for a sweep of the Triple Crown in the 147th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 6, had a schooling session in the Churchill Downs starting gate and resumed galloping around the one-mile oval on Friday morning.
Zayat Stables’ homebred son of Pioneerof the Nile went to the fast main track under regular exercise rider Jorge Alvarez at 8:30 a.m. during Churchill Downs’ special 15-minute training session exclusive to Belmont Stakes contenders after the renovation break. American Pharoah spent a brief period standing in the auxiliary starting gate at the top of the stretch and then galloped 1 1/8 miles, according to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes.
“Everything was great this morning – no problem,” Alvarez said. “He looked real professional. This is good what they’re doing by closing the track for us and letting us train. That makes my job a lot easier.”
Barnes said that American Pharoah would likely gallop 1 ¼ miles on Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
“You see everything that you expect to see,” Barnes said. “Nothing alarming; everything is super positive. This is absolutely normal going into any race the way that we’re doing. We have really nothing to deal with other than keeping him happy. Everything is going smooth.”
Baffert is scheduled to return to Louisville from his Southern California base on Saturday night, and American Pharoah could breeze Sunday or Monday with the former the more likely of the two, according to Barnes.
In other Belmont Stakes news, Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice jogged two miles at 8:30 a.m. with regular exercise rider Faustino Aguilar in the irons for trainer Dale Romans.
McPEEK GIVES 11 REASONS WHY THE TRUTH OR ELSE ENTERED BELMONT PICTURE – Trainer Kenny McPeek and jockey Edgar Prado are no strangers to spoiling Triple Crown bids. It was 13 years ago that they teamed to ruin trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza’s Triple Crown chance with War Emblem when Sarava scored a 70-1 shocker in the 2002 Belmont Stakes.
Harold Lerner’s The Truth Or Else, who won a first-level allowance over 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park on May 22, entered this year’s Belmont fray Thursday and hopes to deliver a crushing blow to American Pharoah. The Yes It’s True colt has a 12-2-1-3—$294,137 career record but has two wins and a second in three starts over the massive Belmont oval. On Friday, McPeek sent a text message with 11 reasons as to why he’s running The Truth Or Else in the Belmont Stakes. It read as follows:
1) My horse loves the Belmont track. [He has] two starts and two wins over a dry Belmont.
2) [He is out of a] Colonial Affair mare and should get the distance
3) He is a very sturdy horse. He eats well and is completely sound. He’s a throwback type of horse.
4) We’ve got nothing to lose, they pay down to eighth place
5) Edgar Prado has been there before and he knows the track and distance
6) The Truth Or Else is bigger and stronger than Sarava and Atigun (third in 2012 Belmont)
7) Confidence builder last race in a good time and excellent speed figure. His last two races set him up for this.
8) Harold and Helen Lerner are from the New York area. This would be special for them.
9) The Truth Or Else has been based at Belmont most of his career, we don’t have to ship him.
10) Weird things happen in the Belmont. Never duck one horse. American Pharoah could possibly not handle the surface.
11) I’m completely crazy, but I have no fear of failure. We only live once. Let’s do this!
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.
MIDWEST THOROUGHBREDS, BRUGGEMANN HOPE FOR BIG DAY SATURDAY – Trainer Roger Bruggemann looks to have a big day on Saturday with two of his Illinois-bred superstars both making their 2015 debut. He sends out Champion Sprinter Work All Week in the $100,000 Aristides (GIII) and The Pizza Man in the $65,000-added Opening Verse overnight stakes.
Both horses, which are owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, are coming off of a layoff of over six months. Work All Week has not run since his triumph in the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) and The Pizza Man has not run since a third-place effort in the Nov. 27 Hollywood Turf Cup (GII) behind eventual winner Finnegan’s Wake. Nevertheless, Brueggemann is not much concerned with their amount of time off.
“The layoff should not be a problem for either of them,” Brueggemann said. “I think he [Work All Week] is coming into the race well and he should be okay, but they have both been training well.”
Bruggemann said that their layoff was not intentional as harsh weather this winter at Oaklawn Park set back training for both horses.
“We wanted to get them out earlier but it just didn’t work out,” he said. “This was probably the soonest we could get them out.”
The Bruggemann-trained duo had stellar campaigns last year. Work All Week won five of his six starts, which ended with a Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory. The Pizza Man won his first three starts last year, which included his first graded stakes victory in the Stars and Stripes (GIII) at Arlington on July 12.
“We’re all hoping for another big year,” he said. “You just never know what might happen, but I hope so.”
Jockey Florent Geroux has the mount on both horses entered for Saturday.
The Aristides field from rail out (with jockey and morning line odds): Alsvid (Chris Landeros, 3-1); Viva Majorca (Brian Hernandez Jr., 15-1); Googleado-ARG (Corey Lanerie, 20-1); Gentlemen’s Bet (Ricardo Santana Jr., 7-2); Nate’s Mineshaft (Rafael Mojica Jr., 9-2); Good Lord (Robby Albarado, 15-1); and Work All Week (Florent Geroux, 6-5). It goes as Race 8 at approximately 4:18 p.m. ET.
The field for the Opening Verse, which follows as Race 9 at 4:49 p.m. ET: Frac Daddy (Corey Lanerie, 9-2); Ultimo Trago (Francisco Torres, 20-1); Hip Four Sixtynine (Calvin Borel, 30-1); Guys Reward (Shaun Bridgmohan, 6-1); Departing (Robby Albarado, 7-2); The Pizza Man (Florent Geroux, 7-2); Enterprising (Channing Hill, 15-1); Key to Power (Miguel Mena, 20-1); R. Great Adventure (Jamie Theriot, 15-1); and Regally Ready (Ricardo Santana Jr., 3-1).
UNBEATEN PROMISE ME SILVER WORKS SWIFTLY FOR ACORN – Robert Luttrell’s unbeaten Promise Me Silver, 1 ¼-length winner of the $200,000 Eight Belles (GIII) on Kentucky Oaks Day, breezing a bullet five furlongs in :59.40 Friday with Brian Hernandez, Jr. in the irons for trainer Bret Calhoun.
The Texas-bred daughter of Silver City, who is 8-for-8, remains on target for the $750,000 Acorn (GI) on June 6 at Belmont Park and is likely to ship to New York on Wednesday. Dennis “Peaches” Geier, assistant to Calhoun, oversaw the work while Calhoun was in Texas visiting family and said he was happy with the filly’s work.
“She looked very good,” Geier said. “Everything was perfect, she galloped out good.”
Promise Me Silver rattled off fractions of :12, :23.80 and :35.60 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.20.
“She went great,” Hernandez said. “She did everything Bret [Calhoun] wanted her to do. Everything went smooth.”
Mike Smith will ride Promise Me Silver in the Acorn. Her previous jockey, Robby Albarado, will pilot Longines Kentucky Oaks runner-up Shook Up.
LOUISVILLE REGIONAL BASEBALL FANS CAN RECEIVE FREE ADMISSION TO CHURCHILL DOWNS – 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 University of Louisville, the No. 3 national seed, hosts Morehead State on Friday at 6 p.m. ET, a little more than an hour after Friday’s ninth and final race that’s scheduled for 4:48 p.m. ET. Bradley and Michigan play earlier at 2 p.m. More games are scheduled Saturday and Sunday.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Nominations close Saturday for the four stakes that comprise the June 13 “Downs After Dark” / Stephen Foster Handicap Night program at Churchill Downs: the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) for 3-year-olds at up at 1 1/8 miles; $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles; $100,000 Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; and $100,000 Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf. The Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis Handicap are part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” program. … 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.