American Pharoah creates a stir, widens gap as Kentucky Derby favorite

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 27th, 2015

The text message came shortly after the phenomenal workout:

“AP is going to airmail.”

That was a friend’s take after American Pharoah recorded his final Kentucky Derby breeze on Sunday.

To say American Pharoah looked good would be an understatement – the immensely talented three-year-old had seasoned observers raving after his five-furlong work in :58 2/5.

"I have been doing this for 35 years," said private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young, "and he might be the best horse I've ever seen. He's simply like Michael Jordan and stays in the air like he did in his rookie year. He stays in the air longer than any horse and you get the feeling that there's not one gear left, but he may have two, three or four gears."

American Pharoah arrived at Churchill Downs two days after his sublime eight-length tally in the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11 and had “wowed” onlookers with his fitness and power in morning gallops.

Sunday’s workout took the excitement factor to another level.

“He's made differently. He moves differently than those other horses,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said after the “bullet” work, easily the fastest of 33 horses at the distance. “He's a very exciting horse. You've all just witnessed the way he trains. That's been him. When he runs, he shows a dimension.

“He's where we want him to be. He hasn't regressed. He looks great. It was pretty exciting to come in here on a nice, cool day, so everything worked out. From here on out we have to keep him happy."

American Pharoah is separating himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite. Probable second choice and stablemate Dortmund has trained forwardly as well, by all accounts, but he’s been out of the intense spotlight, recording his final serious preparations at Santa Anita before shipping on Sunday.

And Dortmund wasn’t going to match American Pharoah at Churchill Downs anyway.

American Pharoah has the established the reputation of an up-and-coming superstar, one who threatens to dominate regardless of the added distance, potential for a hot pace or any other concerns on May 2.

Excluding a bad post draw, I initially believed they would be close in the betting, perhaps 7-2 and 4-1, respectively, but now expect American Pharoah to be in the 2-1 or 5-2 range, with Dortmund drifting upward, possibly as high as 9-2 or 5-1.

Big bettors will be looking to play the best horse and American Pharoah certainly looks the part in his morning exercises at Churchill Downs.