With his date with racing history in the June 6 Belmont Stakes (Grade I) on the near horizon, Zayat Stables’ Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Preakness (GI) winner American Pharoah returned to Churchill Downs on Monday to prepare for the third jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
The Bob Baffert-trained son of Pioneerof the Nile stepped off a van around 2:30 p.m. (all times EDT) at the track that has been his training center since his arrival for the Kentucky Derby on April 27. American Pharoah won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 2 and moved a step closer to racing’s first Triple Crown winner since 1978 with his seven-length romp in the Preakness at rain-soaked Pimlico on Saturday.
The colt boarded a plane in Baltimore in late morning for the flight to Louisville, which touched down around 2 p.m. Assistant trainer Jim Barnes led American Pharoah to the barn following a short van ride from Louisville International Airport.
“Everything went very well,” Barnes said. “He’s a very good shipper. We had a day to rest in Baltimore, which always helps. Usually we have to get out of there real early the next morning, so we were able to give him a regular day off there.
“He came in here with very high energy, so everything looks good.”
Back in familiar surroundings at Churchill Downs, American Pharoah’s activity will be limited to the barn for the next few days.
“The next five days will be very light,” Barnes said. “He’ll probably walk another three to four days, and then he’ll probably have a couple of jog days. Basically right now it’s just getting a little weight on him and getting him happy. He looked fine today getting off the van here.”
American Pharoah did not work between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but that will not be the case in the nearly three weeks leading up to the Preakness. Barnes said the colt would work once or twice before the mile and a half “Test of the Champion,” but the schedule would be determined by Baffert.
Owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat’s colt will be fourth Baffert trainee to attempt a rare Triple Crown sweep. Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) each won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, but could not win the Belmont – although Silver Charm and Real Quiet were runners-up in their respective runnings.
“It is exciting. It’s not our first time at it. You have to just prepare yourself for anything, because it’s a tough one to win. The first one (the Kentucky Derby) is very tough. We’ve had a lot of success in the Preakness, and I don’t know why that is. The Derby winners and the horses that run well (for us) in the Derby ship-up to Baltimore and really run well there.
“The next one’s the tough one. It’s a mile and a half and a big sandy track, and you have the new shooters coming. But whatever happens, happens. We’d love to win it, but if it doesn’t happen we’re good losers. But we would like to make history.”