Dual classic winner American Pharoah impressed trainer Bob Baffert and onlookers at Churchill Downs the morning of May 26 when the colt breezed four furlongs in :48 in preparation for the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
With jockey Martin Garcia flying in from California for the work, the son of Pioneerof the Nile , registered fractions of :12 1/5, :24, and :35 4/5. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 and six furlongs in 1:13 1/5 on the fast track. Zayat Stables' homebred American Pharoah is seeking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978
"He was pretty spectacular out there," said Hall of Famer Baffert, who arrived in Louisville late Monday and was at his Churchill barn at 6 a.m. Tuesday to oversee works. "I really like the way he went today. He showed he had a lot of energy,"
Earlier, Baffert had said he was looking for an easy work, perhaps in :49 and change for the half-mile, but he had Garcia do a little more after he saw how the colt looked on the track.
"He took off at the 4 1/2 (furlong) going really easy, so I told Martin to keep letting him go," Baffert said.
American Pharoah has won six graded stakes since finishing fifth in his career debut. He's coming off an impressive seven-length triumph in the Xpressbet.com Preakness Stakes (gr. I) over a sloppy track that was preceded by an impressive win in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Tuesday's work ranked fifth of 22 at the four-furlong distance at Churchill Downs.
"That's Pharoah," Baffert said of how the colt looks after his two classic victories. "When he's on his game, that's the way he looks."
Baffert said Pharoah has come back well off his recent wins that also included the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) and Arkansas Derby (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park.
"He'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," Baffert said. "The Derby was a hard race. It really got him fit. The Preakness he handled really well. He just makes my job easier because he's such a good horse."
Baffert, who came close to winning the Triple Crown three times with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002), said he is feeling less pressure this year than in the past when he has been in a similar position.
"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. As for what I saw today I don't see any regression. We don't want to see regression, but he's still going to have to run a top race."
Garcia said American Pharoah is an improving horse, noting "he's more mature" than earlier in his career.
"Super good; really, really good," Garcia said in describing American Pharoah, who is ridden in his races by Victor Espinoza. "The way he's been running and the things he has done, he's done very easily and I think he's going to make it. 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 will return to Churchill over the weekend and American Pharoah will put in his final Belmont work Sunday, May 31, or Monday, June 1, before shipping to Belmont Park on Tuesday, June 2.
Two other Belmont hopefuls stabled at Churchill also went to the track Tuesday. Conquest Stables' Conquest Curlinate jogged and galloped one mile with exercise rider Jorge Balbuena aboard for trainer Mark Casse. Jerry Crawford's Keen Ice also was out for exercise at 8:30 a.m. for trainer Dale Romans.
The Belmont is shaping up as a 10-horse race, with the following probables (with jockey and trainer): American Pharoah (Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert); Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner and Kentucky Derby 10th Carpe Diem (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Peter Pan (gr. II) runner-up Conquest Curlinate (Shaun Bridgmohan, Mark Casse); Blue Grass fourth and Kentucky Derby 11th Frammento (Mike Smith, Nick Zito); Wood Memorial (gr. I) and Kentucky Derby fourth Frosted (Joel Rosario, Kiaran McLaughlin); Louisiana Derby fourth and Kentucky Derby seventh Keen Ice (Kent Desormeaux, Dale Romans); Peter Pan winner Madefromlucky (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) and Kentucky Derby sixth Materiality (undecided, Todd Pletcher); UAE Derby (UAE-II) winner and Kentucky Derby ninth Mubtaahij (Irad Ortiz Jr., Mike de Kock); and Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve (Gary Stevens, Dallas Stewart).
Listen to trainer Bob Baffert's thoughts on American Pharoah's work: