American Pharoah now sets sights on Preakness
American Pharoah lived up to the hype in Saturday’s 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, winning by three-quarters of a length as the 5-2 favorite, and the focus will now shift to the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes two weeks later.
It’s been 37 years since Affirmed recorded the last Triple Crown sweep in 1978, but 12 horses have captured the first two legs during the interim.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who tied D. Wayne Lukas for the second-most Kentucky Derby wins by trainer (four), has described what happens: horses tend to “bounce forward” out of the Derby two weeks later but the three-week gap between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes does them in, leaving a bad taste for the huge crowds that gather at Belmont Park hoping to see a Triple Crown winner.
Perhaps American Pharoah will be different. He’s definitely stamped himself as a special Thoroughbred, winning five straight stakes since dropping his career debut last August, and I liked how he overcame a wide trip Saturday after being floated toward the middle of the track by runner-up Firing Line leaving the far turn.
The bay son of 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile had never been seriously tested in any of his previous wins, romping on raw ability, and a female family slanted toward speed proved no hindrance for the athletic colt.
American Pharoah put on a show for onlookers who came to see his final pre-Derby workout at Churchill Downs on April 26, working extremely fast in an effortless manner. He’s fun to watch as he seemingly glides through the air with amazing strides.
I expect to see American Pharoah hold form, or possibly run even better at Pimlico. Then the fun will begin in the build-up to the Belmont Stakes.