American Pharoah gets 1st work in since winning Preakness
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Trainer Bob Baffert was pleased with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah's workout on Tuesday as he prepares for the Belmont Stakes and his attempt to become horse racing's first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
The colt breezed four furlongs in :48 at Churchill Downs after Baffert and American Pharoah's regular exercise rider, jockey Martin Garcia, flew to Kentucky for the work. Jockey Victor Espinoza will again have the mount in the Belmont set for June 6.
The 3-year-old colt galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.40 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:13.20 after splits for the half-mile breeze of :12.20, :24 and :35.80.
''He's moving like his fluid self,'' said Baffert, who is making his fourth attempt at completing the Triple Crown. ''He came back the right way. That's Pharoah. That's the way, when he's on his game, that's the way he looks. Just really happy with the way he went.''
It was the first serious training for American Pharoah since his seven-length Preakness victory in the mud on May 16.
Baffert and Garcia's praise was full-throated and appeared more than just perfunctory pre-race posturing.
''He makes my job easier because he is such a good horse,'' Baffert said. ''Today went pretty good, he was pretty spectacular out there.''
Garcia won't be aboard in the Belmont but was confident he'll soon be part of a Triple Crown-winning team.
''I think he's going to make it,'' Garcia said of American Pharoah's attempt to become the 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed. ''Before, he was green and he really didn't know what was going on. He's starting to realize what is (going on) now. He's learning really well.''
Baffert said he comes into this Belmont with a different mindset after missing the chance at racing history with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002).
''Before, I felt that there was more pressure,'' Baffert said. ''But now I've been through it, I know what to expect and I know that at the end of the day you need a good horse and you have to be doing really well.''
One reason Baffert is so calm is he didn't believe he would be in this position again.
''I never thought I'd have another chance like this,'' Baffert said. ''To be going through it again with a horse like this is a wow moment every time I think about it.''
Baffert plans to return to Kentucky this weekend with American Pharoah getting one final work either Sunday or Monday before shipping to New York.
Two other Belmont hopefuls - Conquest Curlinate for trainer Mark Casse and Keen Ice for trainer Dale Romans - joined American Pharoah on the track during a reserved training session Tuesday morning.
War Story, 16th in the Kentucky Derby, was also with the group and worked five furlongs but his owners will now bypass the Belmont. War Story will instead point toward the Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 20, setting up a possible 10-horse field to challenge American Pharoah.