LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Tuesday, May 26, 2015) â€“ Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Preakness Stakes (GI) winner American Pharoah took his preparation for the June 6 Belmont Stakes (GI) to the next level breezing a half-mile in :48 over a fast track Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs. Martin Garcia was in the irons for the 8:30 a.m. exercise as American Pharoah galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.40 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:13.20 after early 1/8-mile splits of 12.20, 24 and :35.80.
â€œIâ€™m really happy with what he did.â€ Garcia said. â€œHe came back like [it was] nothing. He loves to run. Heâ€™s getting more mature and I think right now heâ€™s starting to realize whatâ€™s going on and he likes it.â€
Even though Victor Espinoza has the mount aboard American Pharoah, Garcia has confidence that the son of Pioneerof the Nile has what it takes to be the next Triple Crown winner, discussing how much the horse has developed and matured over time.
â€œThe way heâ€™s been running and the things he has done, heâ€™s done very easily and I think heâ€™s going to make it,â€ he said. â€œBefore, he was green and he really didnâ€™t know what was going on. Heâ€™s starting to realize what is [going on] now. Heâ€™s learning really well.â€
Trainer Bob Baffert flew to Louisville on Monday night to oversee the Triple Crown hopeful train Tuesday morning and was very happy with the horseâ€™s work over the track.
â€œI really like the way he went today,â€ Baffert said. â€œHe showed like he had a lot of energy. When he hit the track I was on the radio talking to Martin [Garcia] and he really liked the way he felt and he just took off going really easily. I told Martin to just let him keep going. I really liked the way he went.
â€œWeâ€™re just going to stay focused, keep the weight on him and keep him happy like the way he looks today. Next week, weâ€™ll do sort of the same thing with him â€“ just cruise him around real easily, ship to New York and we wonâ€™t do much with him up there.â€
Baffert, who came close to winning the Triple Crown three times with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002), says that he is enjoying going into the Belmont with American Pharoah more than the other three. He also went on to say that he came out the Preakness in good order, much like his three previous Triple Crown hopefuls.
â€œBefore, I felt that there was more pressure,â€ Baffert said. â€œBut now Iâ€™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. As for what I saw today I donâ€™t see any regression. We donâ€™t want to see regression, but heâ€™s still going to have to run a top race.
â€œHeâ€™s come back [from the Preakness] extremely well. He only had those two races [the Rebel and Arkansas Derby] and they were light races up at Oaklawn. The Derby was a hard race and I think it really got him fit. And the Preakness race, it looked like he handled that pretty well. He makes my job easier because he is such a good horse. Today went pretty good, he was pretty spectacular out there.â€
Baffert later admitted that he didnâ€™t think he would be riding high with another Triple Crown on the line again, which he said is another reason why heâ€™s enjoying this. He discussed his relationship with owner Ahmed Zayat and his family and how excited he is for them.
â€œI never thought Iâ€™d have another chance like this,â€ Baffert said. â€œTo be going through it again with a horse like this is a wow moment every time I think about it, but I try not to think about it too much. For the Zayats, this is a great ride for them. One thing about Ahmed Zayat is he is the best family man youâ€™ll ever see; he and those kids are so tight and so close so theyâ€™re really enjoying this together. I can tell that itâ€™s a super family affair and heâ€™s always been so good to us.â€
Baffert also worked last yearâ€™s Breedersâ€™ Cup Classic (GI) winner Bayern in preparation for the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (GI). The son of Offlee Wild breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 with Martin Garcia in the irons. Workout splits were :24.20 and :36.20 with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:13.40.
Baffert said that he would return to Churchill Downs from California this Saturday or Sunday and that American Pharoah would more than likely breeze on Sunday or Monday.
In other Belmont Stakes news, Christopher Dunn, Glenn K. Ellis and Ron Paolucci will now bypass the Belmont and instead target the $500,000 Ohio Derby (GIII) at Thistledown on June 20. The son of Northern Afleet breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 with James Graham up for trainer Tom Amoss. His splits were :12.80, :25.40, :37.80 and :50 with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:14.
Conquest Stablesâ€™ Conquest Curlinate jogged and galloped one mile with exercise rider Jorge Balbuena in the irons for trainer Mark Casse.
Jerry Crawfordâ€™s Keen Ice also was out for exercise at 8:30 a.m.
American Pharoah (Barn 33), Conquest Curlinate (Barn 36) and Keen Ice (Barn 4) are the locally-based Belmont Stakes contenders stabled at Churchill Downs.
BELMONT STAKES POSSIBLE FIELD â€“ The possible 10-horse Belmont Stakes lineup (with jockey and trainer): Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah (Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert); Blue Grass champ and Kentucky Derby 10th Carpe Diem (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Peter Pan runner-up Conquest Curlinate (Shaun Bridgmohan, Mark Casse); Blue Grass fourth and Kentucky Derby 11th Frammento (Mike Smith, Nick Zito); Wood Memorial and Kentucky Derby 4th Frosted (Joel Rosario, Kiaran McLaughlin); Louisiana Derby 4th and Kentucky Derby 7th Keen Ice (Kent Desormeaux, Dale Romans); Peter Pan winner Madefromlucky (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Florida Derby champ and Kentucky Derby 6th Materiality (undecided, Todd Pletcher); UAE Derby winner and Kentucky Derby 8th Mubtaahij-IRE (Irad Ortiz Jr., Mike de Kock); and Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve (Gary Stevens, Dallas Stewart).