Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner American Pharoah had his first gallop since his seven-length romp in last Saturday's Preakness Stakes (GI) in preparation for the final leg of the Triple Crown, the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 6. The homebred son of Pioneerof the Nile galloped 1 3/16 miles over the Churchill Downs main track Friday at 8:30 a.m. following the renovation break with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up.
"It went nice, didn't seem like he was tired or anything," said Alvarez, a native of Tijuana, Mexico. "He came back pretty much the same [after Derby]. So far, no difference."
Alvarez says one of the biggest qualities that American Pharoah has is his ability to cover a lot of ground.
"His stride is very different from a lot of horses – that's an advantage," he said.
Alvarez, who has worked horses for trainer Bob Baffert for seven years, also was the exercise rider for Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah's sire.
"They are both good horses," he said of the Zayat-owned father and son, "but since Day One this horse [American Pharoah] has covered so much ground."
Alvarez wouldn't be disappointed if the track on Belmont Day was similar to Pimlico when the horse won the Preakness because of how well the horse has handled an off track. Aside from the Preakness, American Pharoah triumphed in the slop at Oaklawn Park when he won the March 14 Rebel (GII).
"Once it started raining I got excited a little bit because I know he likes the mud," Alvarez said. "I thought he was ready to run a good race anyway, but the rain adds a lot, too. I hope it rains in New York."
Baffert's assistant, Jimmy Barnes, also was pleased with the horse's gallop over the Churchill main track.
"It went very nice," Barnes said. "He just had a 1 3/16-mile gallop today, but it went very nice. He's perfect – just the way he always is – so we'll gallop a little bit further maybe tomorrow (Saturday) and then by Sunday we'll be back to his normal gallop at a mile-and-a-half.
"The best horses cover the track well – they have a large stride and they're big movers, which he is. Usually the good ones are like that."
American Pharoah's pursuit for racing immortality will mark the 14
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 ½-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 (Gary Stevens) and War Story (Colby Hernandez).
Churchill Downs has a new special box seat package for the June 6 Belmont Stakes simulcast. For $24, fans can get an undercover box seat, official program, a domestic beer or souvenir soda and a custom, limited-edition Kentucky Derby 141 T-Shirt featuring a victorious American Pharaoh. Fans can purchase the package by visiting the online box office at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
– Conquest Stables LLC's Conquest Curlinate breezed five furlongs over a fast Churchill Downs track in :59.80 on Friday morning in preparation for a showdown with American Pharoah in the June 6 Belmont Stakes on June 6.
, assistant to his father Mark, was pleased with the move and says the Ontario-bred son of Curlin should handle the 1 ½-mile distance. "The way he runs he doesn't show a whole lot of early speed," Norman Casse said. "He's always been a much more effective route horse obviously, so we think the distance is just perfect for him. Plus, he has a race over the track which we think is going to be pretty important. He obviously liked it."
Last time out, Conquest Curlinate was a late-closing second in the Peter Pan (GII) at Belmont Park on May 9 behind Madefromlucky, who also is targeting the Belmont.
In other Belmont news, Jerry Crawford's Keen Ice breezed six furlongs in 1:15 on Thursday. Trainer Dale Romans' partner Tammy Fox spoke highly of how the son of Curlin is preparing for the race. "As of yesterday, he's coming into the race really, really good," Fox said. "The work I thought was super. He galloped out really well."
Fox said that Keen Ice will likely work twice before shipping to Belmont Park on Tuesday, June 2. She went on to say that she is hopeful of how the horse will handle the deep and sandy track at Belmont. "I hope he will," Fox said. "It takes a special horse to come in there and run over that racetrack but he's a big horse and a big grinder. I think he'll handle it just fine."
– Monday will mark the halfway point of Churchill Downs' 38-day Spring Meet, and jockey Corey Lanerie finds himself in a familiar position atop the local rider standings with 17 wins. Julien Leparoux and Robby Albarado are not too far behind with 15 and 13 victories, respectively.
"The meet is going good," Lanerie said. "It's always good to be on top. Hopefully I can stay there. It's going to be a tough meet. It will be competitive so I just want to keep winning."
The 40-year-old native of Lafayette, La., says that he plans on riding at Saratoga for the remainder of the summer following the Spring Meet at Churchill Downs. Lanerie is a seven-time leading rider at Churchill Downs.