Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah, the Kentucky Derby champ who splashed his way to a seven-length romp in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, is booked on a Monday flight from Baltimore to Louisville and is expected to arrive at Churchill Downs’ Barn 33 around 2 p.m. ET to begin preparations for the 147th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (Grade I) on Saturday, June 6, according to stall manager Steve Hargrave.
American Pharoah will travel from the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to Louisville International Airport on a H.E. “Tex” Sutton Forwarding Company charter flight with a pair of stablemates: Michael Petersen’s Cat Burglar, who was third in Friday’s Pimlico Special (GIII), and Kaleem Shah Inc.’s Luminance, fifth in Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan (GII).
On Sunday morning, Hargrave expected Monday’s flight to land in Louisville around 1:30 p.m. ET with the van expected to drop the horses off at Baffert’s Barn 33 about a half-hour later.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert appears to be following a schedule he used with his three other Triple Crown prospects. Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) returned to Churchill Downs to prepare for the Belmont Stakes after winning the Preakness. Each had two breezes between the second and third jewels of the Triple Crown. The first workouts came 11 or 12 days after the Preakness (Silver Charm: 6F in 1:14.80 11 days after the Preakness; Real Quiet: 5F in :59.80 12 days after the Preakness; and War Emblem: 5F in 1:00.60 11 days after the Preakness). Their final breezes were staged on the Tuesday before the Belmont (Silver Charm: 5F in 1:00; Real Quiet: 5F in 1:01; and War Emblem: 5F in 1:01).
If Baffert follows a similar plan, American Pharoah could breeze sometime around Wednesday, May 27 with a final breeze on Tuesday, June 2 before catching a flight to New York on Wednesday, June 3.
American Pharoah (7-6-0-0—$3,730,300) is likely to have light activity in the week ahead, according to Baffert. After winning the Run for the Roses, the colt remained in his barn until the Thursday after the Derby.
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 Carpe Diem, Frammento, Frosted, Keen Ice, Madefromlucky, Materiality, Mubtaahij (IRE) and Tale of Verve.
LOUISVILLE HANDICAP TAKES SHAPE – Next Saturday’s featured event at Churchill Downs is the 78th running of the $100,000 Louisville Handicap (Grade III) and Gallant Stables’ Majestic Harbor could be the 116-pound starting high weight if trainer Paul McGee elects to run the 7-year-old in the 1 ½-mile turf marathon. Other known possible starters are Calvados-ARG (115 pounds), Golden Soul (115), Cozy Kitten (114), For Greater Glory (114), Xtra Luck (114) and Russellin (113).
McGee says Majestic Harbor exited his April 25 triumph in a Churchill Downs allowance optional claiming event in good order and is “probable” for the Lou ’Cap. However, the $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational (GII) at 1 ½ miles on dirt on the Belmont Stakes undercard also is under consideration.
“We may run in the Brooklyn; we still haven’t decided on that yet,” McGee said. “He’s doing real well right now. He’s run twice on turf. The first time he ran third at Del Mar and the other time was against Finnegan’s Wake who came back and won the Woodford Reserve, so I think that may have flattered his grass form a little bit. It’s kind of an unknown I guess you could say. I don’t know that he likes the grass any more than he likes the dirt, but it doesn’t necessarily work against him either.”
Charles E. Fipke’s Golden Soul, second to Orb two years ago in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), has racked up a pair of allowance wins on the Matt Winn Turf Course. In two starts this year, 5-year-old Golden Soul has not finished in the money. His last start came in the Feb. 21 Fair Grounds Handicap (GIII) where he ran ninth beaten 7 ½ lengths. Trainer Dallas Stewart, who saddled Tale of Verve to an upset second-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness, won three consecutive editions of the Louisville Handicap from 2004-06 with Silverfoot, who is only the second horse to win three consecutive runnings of this race. Chorwon scored three straight Louisville Handicaps from 1997-99.
ROMANS’ ANGELS PLANS UPDATED – Trainer Dale Romans is looking ahead with his trio of recent stakes-winning females: Birdatthewire, Keen Pauline and Molly Morgan.
Stonestreet Stables’ Keen Pauline pulled a 15-1 wire-to-wire upset in Friday’s Black Eyed Susan (GII) at Pimlico, and Romans said the race unfolded according to plan.
“I’ve been pointing her since the beginning of the year toward the Black Eyed Susan,” he said. “There was no speed in the race so the whole plan was to go the lead and go wire to wire. She is quick but she has the pedigree to run forever. I don’t know if she wants to be going against the best just yet. We’ve got a long year and a lot of 3-year-old options. I’ll figure it out in the next week or so.”
Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan breezed five furlongs in 1:02.60 Saturday morning, and the five-time winner at Churchill Downs is on target for either the $200,000 Fleur de Lis (GII) on June 13 – a 1 1/8-mile race she won last year – or the $1 million Delaware Handicap (GI) at Delaware Park on July 18.
Forum Racing IV’s Birdatthewire also breezed five furlongs Saturday, clocking the distance in in 1:00.20. Fifth in the Longines Kentucky Oaks, she is more than likely to make her next start on the Belmont Stakes undercard in the $750,000 Acorn Stakes (GI).
Meanwhile, Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 on Friday and remains on target for the Belmont Stakes (GI) in three weeks.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Churchill Downs will have a special five-day racing week in the coming week. After dark days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Louisville track will host programs on Thursday (5 p.m. ET), Friday (12:45 p.m. ET), Saturday (12:45 p.m. ET), Sunday (12:45 p.m. ET) and Memorial Day Monday (12:45 p.m. ET). The Memorial Day feature is the 12th running of the $100,000 Winning Colors (GIII), a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares. Possible starters, according to assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator Dan Bork, are Enchanting Lisa, Heykittykittykitty, Milam, defending champ Southern Honey, Spring Included, Toni’s Hollyday and You Bought Her. … Stall manager Steve Hargrave reports that Danzig Moon, sixth in the Preakness Stakes, is expected to return to Churchill Downs via a van ride overnight around 2 a.m. ET.