Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah, fresh off a dominant eight-length victory in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (Grade I) at Oaklawn Park, completed an uneventful Monday journey from the Hot Springs, Ark. track to Churchill Downs, where he stepped off a van at the home of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) shortly after 4 p.m. (all times Eastern).
The Bob Baffert-trained son of Pioneerof the Nile was accompanied to Barn 33 at Churchill Downs by assistant trainer Jim Barnes, who had traveled from the three-time Kentucky Derby winner’s Southern California base to the Arkansas Derby with American Pharoah.
“The horse looked like he traveled very well – he’s a good traveler,” said Barnes. “The reason why we came here so early is that we were already halfway here. You don’t want to go back to California and then come back to Churchill.”
American Pharoah, America’s champion two-year-old of 2014, carries a four-race winning streak – all stakes races, and three out of four being Grade I stakes events – into the Kentucky Derby. His career record starts at 4-0-0 in five races with earnings of $1,411,500. He has not been tested in his four races since his September debut at Del Mar, where American Pharoah finished fifth of nine in maiden special weight race that was his only start outside of graded stakes company.
Barnes said American Pharoah won’t need much training over the Churchill Downs track to be ready for the Kentucky Derby run on the first Saturday in May.
“We’re at Churchill and he’ll just take it easy,” said Barnes. “He doesn’t need to do much. He’ll breeze one time before the race.”
American Pharoah was accompanied to Baffert’s Churchill Downs barn by Longines Kentucky Oaks candidate Maybellene and Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) winner Hopportunity, who is nominated to the Alysheba (GII) on Kentucky Oaks Day. Two more Baffert-trained Derby hopes – Kaleem Shah’s unbeaten Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Dortmund and Michael Lund Peterson’s Santa Anita Derby runner-up One Lucky Dane – remain in Southern California.
Arriving at Churchill Downs shortly after American Pharoah was Mr. Z, the third-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby and the second of Zayat’s trio of Kentucky Derby hopes. Mr. Z is trained by four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas scored his only win in 12 races in his career debut at Churchill Downs in late June. The son of Malibu Moon has four runner-up finishes and four third-place runs in those races and has earned $652,226.
Zayat also owns Gotham (GIII) and Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) winner El Kabeir, who is training in New York with trainer John Terranova.