LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Thursday, May 21, 2015) - Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and Preakness (GI) winner American Pharoah (7-6-0-0-$3,730,300) returned to the track Thursday for the first time since Saturday's seven-length romp in the slop at Pimlico Race Course. The 3-year-old flew from Baltimore to Louisville on Monday to begin preparations for the 147th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (Grade I) on Saturday, June 6 from his classic's base at Churchill Downs Barn 33.
Following four days of rest, Zayat Stables' American Pharoah, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, went to the track with regular morning partner Jorge Alvarez at 6:45 a.m. and jogged once around the one-mile oval.
"He looked very good, I couldn't be happier," said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert's chief assistant. "His energy level is good."
Barnes said the homebred son of Pioneerof the Nile would return to the Churchill Downs main track Friday after the renovation break around 8:30 a.m. ET, but was unsure as to whether American Pharoah would jog or gallop.
"We'll go to the track tomorrow and Bob [Baffert] will tell me what he wants to do," Barnes said. "If he says jog him another day, we'll jog him another day. If he says gallop, then we'll gallop. Bottom line, he is in charge; I'm just the caretaker of the horse."
American Pharoah is following a similar post-Preakness training pattern that all three of Baffert's previous Triple Crown hopefuls - Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) - went through. Each of Baffert's Derby and Preakness winners trained at Churchill Downs before shipping to New York for the Belmont. Barnes stated that it is much easier to train in this manner because they are stabled at Churchill.
"We come back here with all of our Derby horses and we usually come back this way," said Barnes, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native that has teamed with Baffert since 1999. "I'd prefer to train here, we're set up here and our barn is here. I mean New York is all right. It's a big track and a sandy track. You get a lot of weather that you get here, but we're comfortable here.
"We had some disappointing years. Point Given ... I really thought we could have won the Triple Crown that year and we didn't win the first one. But he [American Pharoah] fits right in with the best of them. He's a pleasure to train, he does everything with ease and he's a big mover. I think probably one of his best assets is how he moves. His action and everything is forward and big."
American Pharoah's pursuit for racing immortality will mark the 14th time - and third in the last four years - since Affirmed swept all three races in 1978 that a horse has had a chance to join the 11 Triple Crown champions. According to reports, his challengers in the 1 Â½-mile Belmont could include (with known jockeys) Carpe Diem, Conquest Curlinate (Shaun Bridgmohan), Frammento (Mike Smith), Frosted (Joel Rosario), Keen Ice, Madefromlucky, Materiality, Mubtaahij-IRE, Tale of Verve and War Story (Colby Hernandez).
In other American Pharoah news, it was announced Wednesday that he will stand at Coolmore's Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky. when his racing career is concluded. Zayat, his owner and breeder, retains management of American Pharoah through the end of the year.
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