Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and Preakness (GI) winner American Pharoah (7-6-0-0—$3,730,300) returned to the track Thursday for the first time since Saturday’s seven-length romp in the slop at Pimlico Race Course. The 3-year-old flew from Baltimore to Louisville on Monday to begin preparations for the 147th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (Grade I) on Saturday, June 6 from his classic’s base at Churchill Downs Barn 33.
Following four days of rest, Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, went to the track with regular morning partner Jorge Alvarez at 6:45 a.m. and jogged once around the one-mile oval.
“He looked very good, I couldn’t be happier,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s chief assistant. “His energy level is good.”
Barnes said the homebred son of Pioneerof the Nile would return to the Churchill Downs main track Friday after the renovation break around 8:30 a.m. ET, but was unsure as to whether American Pharoah would jog or gallop.
“We’ll go to the track tomorrow and Bob [Baffert] will tell me what he wants to do,” Barnes said. “If he says jog him another day, we’ll jog him another day. If he says gallop, then we’ll gallop. Bottom line, he is in charge; I’m just the caretaker of the horse.”
American Pharoah is following a similar post-Preakness training pattern that all three of Baffert’s previous Triple Crown hopefuls – Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) – went through. Each of Baffert’s Derby and Preakness winners trained at Churchill Downs before shipping to New York for the Belmont. Barnes stated that it is much easier to train in this manner because they are stabled at Churchill.
“We come back here with all of our Derby horses and we usually come back this way,” said Barnes, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native that has teamed with Baffert since 1999. “I’d prefer to train here, we’re set up here and our barn is here. I mean New York is all right. It’s a big track and a sandy track. You get a lot of weather that you get here, but we’re comfortable here.
“We had some disappointing years. Point Given … I really thought we could have won the Triple Crown that year and we didn’t win the first one. But he [American Pharoah] fits right in with the best of them. He’s a pleasure to train, he does everything with ease and he’s a big mover. I think probably one of his best assets is how he moves. His action and everything is forward and big.”
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 and War Story (Colby Hernandez).
In other American Pharoah news, it was announced Wednesday that he will stand at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky. when his racing career is concluded. Zayat, his owner and breeder, retains management of American Pharoah through the end of the year.
PREAKNESS RUNNER-UP TALE OF VERVE ALREADY IN NEW YORK FOR BELMONT – Charles Fipke’s Tale of Verve, the longshot late-closing second to American Pharoah in the Preakness, shipped to New York after the race to prepare for a rematch in the Belmont Stakes. Trainer Dallas Stewart was pleased with the Tale of Ekati colt’s performance and how he handled the off track.
“He did well,” Stewart said. “It was a crazy day with the rain and everything but they all handled the rain. It was pretty amazing to see.”
Churchill Downs Barn Notes
Thursday, May 21, 2015
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MR. Z TO RECEIVE BREAK – Calumet Farm’s Mr. Z, who finished fifth in the Preakness, will receive a 30-to-40-day break, according to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who said that the son of Malibu Moon came out of the race well.
“He wears blinkers and he got in behind that horse [American Pharoah] and caught a lot of mud and everything in those blinkers,” Lukas said. “That was not a true indication on how he runs, that mud and wearing full cup blinkers really compromised him.”
DANZIG MOON ON TARGET FOR QUEEN’S PLATE – John C. Oxley’s Danzig Moon, sixth in the Preakness, is on target for the first leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine on Sunday, July 5.
“He was coughing all the way home, but I think more importantly he didn’t want to run into [the mud],” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father Mark. “You couldn’t even tell he had blinkers on. I want to let him have two easy weeks before we do anything like [a breeze].”
NINE ENTERED IN SATURDAY’S LOU ’CAP; MAJESTIC HARBOR 7-2 MORNING LINE FAVE – Gallant Stables’ Majestic Harbor is the 116-pound high weight and was made the 7-2 morning line favorite against a competitive field of nine older horses for Saturday’s 78th running of the $100,000 Louisville Handicap (Grade III), but it remains unclear if the 7-year-old will start in the 1 ½-mile marathon on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
“I’m still not 100-percent sure that we’ll run, but we entered him,” said trainer Paul McGee, who also has the $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational (GII), a 1 ½-mile dirt race on the June 6 Belmont Stakes undercard under consideration. “I’ve got to get with the owners. We may still opt to run in the Brooklyn. I just haven’t consulted with the owners just yet, so that’s how it stands.”
Last year, Majestic Harbor sprang a 14-1 upset in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI) when under the care of West Coast trainer Sean McCarthy. He is coming into his next start off a pair of April victories in off-the-turf allowance races at Keeneland and Churchill Downs.
The Louisville Handicap field from the rail out (with jockey, assigned weight and morning line odds): Royal Blessing (Miguel Mena, 114 pounds, 12-1); Cozy Kitten (Julien Leparoux, 114, 8-1); Calvados-ARG (Rafael Hernandez, 115, 5-1); Layton Register (Jon Court, 113, 15-1); Majestic Harbor (Corey Lanerie, 116, 7-2); For Greater Glory (Joe Rocco Jr., 114, 12-1); Xtra Luck (Brian Hernandez Jr., 114, 4-1); Golden Soul (Robby Albarado, 115, 4-1); and Patrioticandproud (Shaun Bridgmohan, 116, 9-2).
Charles Fipke’s 5-year-old Golden Soul has shown up in a dozen graded stakes races throughout his career but has yet to find success at such a level. Two years ago, the son of Perfect Soul was runner-up to Orb in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. Golden Soul is two-for-two on the Matt Winn Turf Course and trainer Dallas Stewart, who won this race three years in a row with Silverfoot (2004-06), says that his affinity for the Churchill turf gives the horse a good advantage.
“He likes the track, and the race is at a mile-and-a-half distance,” Stewart said. “We think he’s going to like it.”
Stewart went on to say that Golden Soul was a horse that he had to be patient with – much like he was with Saturday’s Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve.
“He was second here going a mile first time out and then he won at Fair Grounds so he got with it a little earlier than Tale of Verve, but they’re all different.” Stewart said. “You just have to take your time with him. He’s doing real well, I’m happy with him. His works have been good.”
The Louisville Handicap goes as Race 8 on Saturday’s 10-race card at approximately 4:18 p.m. ET. First post is 12:45 p.m. ET.
TRENDING – Seven-time Churchill Downs champion jockey Corey Lanerie regained the top spot in the local rider standings with eight wins last week (May 14-17). He enters Week 4 with a 17-13 advantage over Julien Leparoux. Robby Albarado is third with 12 wins after winning five last week, including a three-win day on Saturday. … Tom Amoss led all trainers with three wins last week. Steve Asmussen enters the week as the top trainer with seven victories, one more than Todd Pletcher and Dale Romans. Amoss, Mark Casse, Chris Hartman and Mike Maker have five wins each. … Richard and Karen Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. and Maggi Moss are tied atop the owner’s standings with three wins each. … Commerce Alert: There have been 85 claimed horses for a total of $1,798,500 through the first 14 days of the 38-day Spring Meet compared to 54 for $1,196,500 over the same period a year ago.
Churchill Downs Barn Notes
Thursday, May 21, 2015
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DOWN THE STRETCH – Bayern, the reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, returned to the Churchill Downs work tab Wednesday morning with a six-furlong breeze in 1:11.80 – his first move since a subpar sixth of six finish in the $500,000 Churchill Downs (GII) on Kentucky Derby Day. The 4-year-old, with Miguel Mena aboard, clicked off fractions of :23.80, :35.60, :47.60 and :59.60. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25.20. Meanwhile, another Bob Baffert-trained runner, Hoppertunity, last year’s Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) champ, breezed a half-mile in :49.60 on Tuesday. Baffert had previously said that Bayern’s next target could be the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (GI) at one mile on the June 6 Belmont Stakes undercard. “Bob will come in and make his mind up where we’re going,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “We haven’t quite decided yet.” … Churchill Downs has a special five-day racing schedule this week: Thursday (5 p.m. all times Eastern, 8 races), Friday (12:45 p.m., 9 races), Saturday (12:45 p.m., 10 races), Sunday (12:45 p.m., 10 races) and Memorial Day Monday (12:45 p.m., 11 races). … The music of Killer Lips will entertain guests in the Plaza during today’s Twilight Thursday eight-race program. Killer Lips is known around Louisville for their raw energy and performs Pop/Top 40 as well as 90s and Classic Rock. Also featured are $1 beer from 5-7 p.m., food trucks and a special Handicapping 101 tent for newcomers. Gates open at 4 p.m. Thursday, the first race is 5 p.m. and the finale is set for 8:39 p.m. … There’s a $6,447 carryover for Thursday in the 10-cent Lucky 7 Jackpot (Races 2-8) and a $3,078 carryover in the $2 Pick 6 (Races 3-8). … 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. … 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. Entries will be taken on Friday. … 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. … Approximately 800 guests participated in Family Adventure Day activities last Sunday despite inclement weather. The next event, in conjunction with Kroger and Kosair Children’s Hospital, is scheduled for Father’s Day on Sunday, June 21. … Birthdays: Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion (51) on Friday; trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi (41) on Saturday; former Hall of Fame and Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Don Brumfield (77) on Sunday; and trainer Ian Wilkes (50) on Monday. Belated birthday wishes to trainer Grant Forster, who celebrated No. 41 this past Monday. … The sixth annual “Buck” Wheat Golf Scramble to benefit The Backside Learning Center is Tuesday at South Park Country Club (915 South Park Road, Fairdale, Ky. 40118). The shotgun start is 12:30 p.m. and a reception with silent auction will follow the tournament. For