Zayat Stables’ Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 on a fast track under Martin Garcia Monday at Churchill Downs. The horse is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park Tuesday.
The biggest star in horse racing will hit the big city Tuesday, but Monday it still had work to do.
American Pharoah, who will try to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, turned in his final workout Monday, covering five furlongs at Churchill Downs in 1:00.20 under cloudy skies, light rain and 58 degrees. The 3-year-old colt galloped out six furlongs in 1:13, seven furlongs in 1:26 and a mile in 1:39.60 over the Louisville track where he won the Derby.
“It went really nice,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “It rained a little bit, a little mist, I was a little anxious, but he went out there happy and went around there in his high cruising mode and got something out of it so it was good. Now we just play the waiting game. We’ll ship out tomorrow morning and hope everything goes well when we go to the Big Apple.”
American Pharoah will be flown from Louisville to New York and vanned to his barn at Belmont Park on Tuesday afternoon. The $ 1.5 million Belmont Stakes, where Pharoah will try to become the 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed, is Saturday.
“My job is to have him at his peak,” Baffert said. “He’s sharp and he should show up.”
This will be Baffert’s ninth starter in the Belmont Stakes and his record fourth horse trying to win the Triple Crown — Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998) finished second, while War Emblem (2002) weakened to eighth after a slow start. Baffert’s lone Belmont winner came with Point Given, who lost the Kentucky Derby before winning the Preakness in 2001.
“We’re sort of used to running in these big races, so it’s not like it’s the first time for us,” Baffert said. “We know that as long as we’re prepared and we know what we need to do — that’s the whole thing. The only thing that I would get nervous about would be if things aren’t going well, but so far everything has been right on schedule. There haven’t been any setbacks, no hiccups, so that’s the main thing.”
Many horses fail in the Belmont Stakes as the rigors of racing three times in three states in five weeks catch up with them.
Jockey Victor Espinoza said he noticed California Chrome had lost some weight before finishing fourth in last year’s Belmont Stakes but Baffert said American Pharoah has gained weight since the campaign began.
“He’s gained nine pounds,” Baffert said, adding that the 3-year-old horse weighs 1,178 pounds.
Baffert, who is scheduled to arrive in New York on Tuesday afternoon, said after hearing the news that both Carpe Diem and The Truth or Else had to scratch out of the race made him nervous.
“When you hear about other horses dropping out it get you nervous thinking your horse might be next, but we’re good and golden,” he said.
Baffert acknowledged how important a Triple Crown winner would be for the sport as Affirmed remains the last horse to sweep the three races in 1978.
“I think it’s big for the sport right now,” Baffert said. “It’s about the sport and the Thoroughbred industry. This is a time where people are tuning in to see if it can happen and I think that’s like any sport. People in this country are sports fanatics (and) will tune in to see if there’s something on the line or some historic thing and now with social media, people will know what’s going on.
“But I think the Thoroughbred industry needs a jump to get people involved. That’s how you get people involved, getting more people in that maybe buy and breed horses. If you can’t own a baseball team, football team or basketball team, you own a horse. It’s the same enjoyment.”
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