Leading contender American Pharoah arrives for 2015 Kentucky Derby
“The horse looked like he traveled very well -- he’s a good traveler,” Barnes said. “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.”
Based at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California, American Pharoah shipped to Arkansas for both starts this year, romping by 6 ¼ lengths in the March 14 Rebel Stakes before Saturday’s tour-de-force performance.
Spectators will have ample opportunities to watch the exciting three-year-old exercise under the Twin Spires and one official workout is planned.
“We’re at Churchill and he’ll just take it easy,” Barnes said. “He doesn’t need to do much. He’ll breeze one time before the race.”
Unbeaten since a troubled career debut, American Pharoah is very fast, recording his first three stakes wins in wire-to-wire fashion. He’s always a threat to run away on the lead, but the bay colt displayed a new dimension in the Arkansas Derby, rating three lengths behind in second during the early stages before impressively dusting the competition.
The ability to sit close could benefit the front-runner if an early speed duel develops in the Kentucky Derby.
Baffert is a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, but it’s been 13 years since the last with War Emblem. He also captured back-to-back editions with Silver Charm and Real Quiet in 1997-98, and the Hall of Fame trainer possesses an overall record of 24-3-3-2, including runner-up finishes with American Pharoah’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, in 2009 and Bodemeister in 2012.
Jockey Victor Espinoza will be seeking his second consecutive, and third overall Kentucky Derby victory, piloting eventual Horse of the Year California Chrome to the Roses last year. The 42-year-old was up on Baffert’s last Kentucky Derby winner, War Emblem in 2002.
Ahmed Zayat is pursuing an elusive Kentucky Derby trophy, finishing second three times previously with Pioneerof the Nile, Bodemeister and Nehro in 2011. The prominent owner called American Pharoah “the best horse I’ve ever owned.”
American Pharoah has accomplished everything so far in a brilliant manner. He still must stretch out to 1 ¼ miles against a deep cast in the Kentucky Derby, but there's no telling how high the ceiling runs with this outstanding performer.
Photo of American Pharoah at Churchill Downs courtesy of Reed Palmer
Photo of American Pharoah winning the Arkansas Derby courtesy of Coady Photography