Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Preakness Stakes (GI) winner American Pharoah took his preparation for the June 6 Belmont Stakes (GI) to the next level breezing a half-mile in :48 over a fast track Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs. Martin Garcia was in the irons for the 8:30 a.m. exercise as American Pharoah galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.40 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:13.20 after early 1/8-mile splits of 12.20, 24 and :35.80.
“I’m really happy with what he did.” Garcia said. “He came back like [it was] nothing. He loves to run. He’s getting more mature and I think right now he’s starting to realize what’s going on and he likes it.”
Even though Victor Espinoza has the mount aboard American Pharoah, Garcia has confidence that the son of Pioneerof the Nile has what it takes to be the next Triple Crown winner, discussing how much the horse has developed and matured over time.
“The way he’s been running and the things he has done, he’s done very easily and I think he’s going to make it,” he said. “Before, he was green and he really didn’t know what was going on. He’s starting to realize what is [going on] now. He’s learning really well.”
Trainer Bob Baffert flew to Louisville on Monday night to oversee the Triple Crown hopeful train Tuesday morning and was very happy with the horse’s work over the track.
“I really like the way he went today,” Baffert said. “He showed like he had a lot of energy. When he hit the track I was on the radio talking to Martin [Garcia] and he really liked the way he felt and he just took off going really easily. I told Martin to just let him keep going. I really liked the way he went.
“We’re just going to stay focused, keep the weight on him and keep him happy like the way he looks today. Next week, we’ll do sort of the same thing with him – just cruise him around real easily, ship to New York and we won’t do much with him up there.”
Baffert, who came close to winning the Triple Crown three times with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002), says that he is enjoying going into the Belmont with American Pharoah more than the other three. He also went on to say that he came out the Preakness in good order, much like his three previous Triple Crown hopefuls.
“Before, I felt that there was more pressure,” Baffert said. “But now I’ve been through it, I know what to expect and I know that at the end of the day you need a good horse and you have to be doing really well. As for what I saw today I don’t see any regression. We don’t want to see regression, but he’s still going to have to run a top race.
“He’s come back [from the Preakness] extremely well. He only had those two races [the Rebel and Arkansas Derby] and they were light races up at Oaklawn. The Derby was a hard race and I think it really got him fit. And the Preakness race, it looked like he handled that pretty well. He makes my job easier because he is such a good horse. Today went pretty good, he was pretty spectacular out there.”
Baffert later admitted that he didn’t think he would be riding high with another Triple Crown on the line again, which he said is another reason why he’s enjoying this. He discussed his relationship with owner Ahmed Zayat and his family and how excited he is for them.
“I never thought I’d have another chance like this,” Baffert said. “To be going through it again with a horse like this is a wow moment every time I think about it, but I try not to think about it too much. For the Zayats, this is a great ride for them. One thing about Ahmed Zayat is he is the best family man you’ll ever see; he and those kids are so tight and so close so they’re really enjoying this together. I can tell that it’s a super family affair and he’s always been so good to us.”
Baffert also worked last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Bayern in preparation for the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (GI). The son of Offlee Wild breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 with Martin Garcia in the irons. Workout splits were :24.20 and :36.20 with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:13.40.
Baffert said that he would return to Churchill Downs from California this Saturday or Sunday and that American Pharoah would more than likely breeze on Sunday or Monday.
In other Belmont Stakes news, Christopher Dunn, Glenn K. Ellis and Ron Paolucci will now bypass the Belmont and instead target the $500,000 Ohio Derby (GIII) at Thistledown on June 20. The son of Northern Afleet breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 with James Graham up for trainer Tom Amoss. His splits were :12.80, :25.40, :37.80 and :50 with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:14.
Conquest Stables’ Conquest Curlinate jogged and galloped one mile with exercise rider Jorge Balbuena in the irons for trainer Mark Casse.
Jerry Crawford’s Keen Ice also was out for exercise at 8:30 a.m.
American Pharoah (Barn 33), Conquest Curlinate (Barn 36) and Keen Ice (Barn 4) are the locally-based Belmont Stakes contenders stabled at Churchill Downs.
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); Peter Pan runner-up Conquest Curlinate (Shaun Bridgmohan, Mark Casse); 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); and Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve (Gary Stevens, Dallas Stewart).
FANS ADVISED THAT AMERICAN PHAROAH WILL NOT GO TO TRACK WEDNESDAY – After breezing a half-mile in :48 Tuesday, American Pharoah will not go the track Wednesday morning during the special 8:30-8:45 a.m. training period for Belmont Stakes horses. Instead, he’ll walk around Barn 33 and could return to the track Thursday for a once around clockwise jog.
Area horse racing fans are invited to watch the locally-based Belmont Stakes horses train on the track from the first floor of the facility, including the new Courtyard area, free of charge, through Tuesday.
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 along with rivals Conquest Curlinate and 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, June 2. 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.