Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner American Pharoah had his first gallop since his seven-length romp in last Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (GI) in preparation for the final leg of the Triple Crown, the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 6. The homebred son of Pioneerof the Nile galloped 1 3/16 miles over the Churchill Downs main track Friday at 8:30 a.m. following the renovation break with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up.
“It went nice, didn’t seem like he was tired or anything,” said Alvarez, a native of Tijuana, Mexico. “He came back pretty much the same [after Derby]. So far, no difference.”
Alvarez says one of the biggest qualities that American Pharoah has is his ability to cover a lot of ground.
"His stride is very different from a lot of horses – that’s an advantage,” he said.
Alvarez, who has worked horses for trainer Bob Baffert for seven years, also was the exercise rider for Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah’s sire.
“They are both good horses,” he said of the Zayat-owned father and son, “but since Day One this horse [American Pharoah] has covered so much ground.”
Alvarez wouldn’t be disappointed if the track on Belmont Day was similar to Pimlico when the horse won the Preakness because of how well the horse has handled an off track. Aside from the Preakness, American Pharoah triumphed in the slop at Oaklawn Park when he won the March 14 Rebel (GII).
“Once it started raining I got excited a little bit because I know he likes the mud,” Alvarez said. “I thought he was ready to run a good race anyway, but the rain adds a lot, too. I hope it rains in New York.”
Baffert’s assistant, Jimmy Barnes, also was pleased with the horse’s gallop over the Churchill main track
“It went very nice,” Barnes said. “He just had a 1 3/16-mile gallop today, but it went very nice. He’s perfect – just the way he always is – so we’ll gallop a little bit further maybe tomorrow (Saturday) and then by Sunday we’ll be back to his normal gallop at a mile-and-a-half.
“The best horses cover the track well – they have a large stride and they’re big movers, which he is. Usually the good ones are like that.”
American Pharoah’s pursuit for racing immortality will mark the 14th time – and third in the last four years – since Affirmed swept all three races in 1978 that a horse has had a chance to join the 11 Triple Crown champions. According to reports, his challengers in the 1 ½-mile Belmont could include (with known jockeys) Carpe Diem, Conquest Curlinate (Shaun Bridgmohan), Frammento (Mike Smith), Frosted (Joel Rosario), Keen Ice, Madefromlucky, Materiality, Mubtaahij-IRE, Tale of Verve (Gary Stevens) and War Story (Colby Hernandez).
Churchill Downs has a new 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 featuring a victorious American Pharaoh. Fans can purchase the package by visiting the online box office at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
CONQUEST CURLINATE READIES FOR BELMONT – Conquest Stables LLC’s Conquest Curlinate breezed five furlongs over a fast Churchill Downs track in :59.80 on Friday morning in preparation for a showdown with American Pharoah in the June 6 Belmont Stakes on June 6.
Norman Casse, assistant to his father Mark, was pleased with the move and says the Ontario-bred son of Curlin should handle the 1 ½-mile distance. “The way he runs he doesn’t show a whole lot of early speed,” Norman Casse said. “He’s always been a much more effective route horse obviously, so we think the distance is just perfect for him. Plus, he has a race over the track which we think is going to be pretty important. He obviously liked it.”
Last time out, Conquest Curlinate was a late-closing second in the Peter Pan (GII) at Belmont Park on May 9 behind Madefromlucky, who also is targeting the Belmont.
In other Belmont news, Jerry Crawford’s Keen Ice breezed six furlongs in 1:15 on Thursday. Trainer Dale Romans’ partner Tammy Fox spoke highly of how the son of Curlin is preparing for the race. “As of yesterday, he’s coming into the race really, really good,” Fox said. “The work I thought was super. He galloped out really well.”
Fox said that Keen Ice will likely work twice before shipping to Belmont Park on Tuesday, June 2. She went on to say that she is hopeful of how the horse will handle the deep and sandy track at Belmont. “I hope he will,” Fox said. “It takes a special horse to come in there and run over that racetrack but he’s a big horse and a big grinder. I think he’ll handle it just fine.”
LANERIE CHASING EIGHTH TITLE AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Monday will mark the halfway point of Churchill Downs’ 38-day Spring Meet, and jockey Corey Lanerie finds himself in a familiar position atop the local rider standings with 17 wins. Julien Leparoux and Robby Albarado are not too far behind with 15 and 13 victories, respectively.
“The meet is going good,” Lanerie said. “It’s always good to be on top. Hopefully I can stay there. It’s going to be a tough meet. It will be competitive so I just want to keep winning.”
The 40-year-old native of Lafayette, La., says that he plans on riding at Saratoga for the remainder of the summer following the Spring Meet at Churchill Downs. Lanerie is a seven-time leading rider at Churchill Downs.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Robert Lutrell’s undefeated graded stakes-winning filly Promise Me Silver breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20 on Friday morning for trainer Bret Calhoun. This was the Texas-bred’s second work since her victory in the Eight Belles (GIII) on the Kentucky Oaks undercard and she’s targeting the Acorn (GI) at Belmont Park. … John C. Oxley’s Noble Bird worked a bullet five furlongs in: 58.80 for trainer Mark Casse This was the son of Birdstone’s first work since his runner-up effort behind Protonico in the May 1 Alysheba (GII). … The Casse barn’s Tepin breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40, which was the daughter of Tapit’s first work since her victory in the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII). … Sky Captain, another Casse trainee, worked five furlongs in :59.80 over the main track, his first work since being disqualified from second to fourth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) on Derby Day. … Retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day, trainer Dallas Stewart and jockey Jon Court will join Darren Rogers and John Asher as guests on Saturday’s “Inside Churchill Downs” which airs from 10-11 a.m. on ESPN 680/105.7 or www.espnlouisville.com. … On Thursday, it was announced that Court, 54, will receive the 2015 Mike Venezia Memorial Award on Monday at Belmont Park. Established in 1989, the Mike Venezia Memorial Award is awarded to jockeys who exemplify extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship. It is named in honor of Mike Venezia, who died as a result of injuries he suffered in a spill in 1988 at Belmont Park. Previous winners include Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Jerry Bailey, Mike Smith, Gary Stevens, Richard Migliore and Ramon Dominguez. Churchill Downs plans to salute Court for the honor between races on Saturday. … The weekly “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” returns 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. … Entries for Monday’s Memorial Day feature, the 12th running of the $100,000 Winning Colors (GIII) for fillies and mares at six furlongs, will be taken Saturday morning. Possible entrants, according to assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator Dan Bork, are Boss Barney’s Babe, Enchanting Lisa, Heykittykittykitty, Milam, Pistolpackinpenny, defending champ Southern Honey, Spring Included, Street Story, Toni’s Hollyday and You Bought Her. … General admission for all active and retired members of the United States armed forces is free on Monday, and there’s a special $28 Memorial Day dining package in Millionaires Row 4 available for military as well. … Track bugler Steve Buttleman will entertain Memorial Day attendees with patriotic songs following the “Call to the Post” for each race on Monday. He’s also sure to decorate the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle with an abundance of U.S. flags.