Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah in the prep race, the Arkansas Derby - photo courtesy Tom Ferry
American Pharoah was a solid winner of the 2015 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). In the run for the roses, he overcame breaking from the unfortunate eighteenth post. In the Preakness, he will break from the first gate. In a field of eight horses, he should get a clear shot at the lead from post one. With this draw, he will get a short trip close to the rail.
American Pharoah had a nearly ideal trip in the Kentucky Derby, despite his wide post position. He settled comfortably in third behind Dortmund’s pace of 23.24, 47.34, and 1:11.26 for the opening quarter, half, and three-quarter mile.
Out of the turn, Gary Stevens aboard Firing Line pressured American Pharoah to drift five paths wide, but he was able to maintain his momentum early in the homestretch run. However, he did lose some speed when he drifted back towards the rail, passing Firing Line. Under Victor Espinoza’s vehement urging, American Pharoah overtook Firing Line to win the Kentucky Derby by one length. His final time for the 1 ¼ mile journey was 2:03.02. After the race, Espinoza stated, “He has been a special horse since the first time I rode him. He has a lot of talent and is an unbelievable horse. Turning for home I started riding a little bit harder. At the eighth pole I just couldn't put that other horse [Firing Line] away, but he got it done." This win aboard American Pharoah gave Espinoza his second consecutive Derby win, and his third overall. Last year, he won aboard California Chrome, and aboard the Bob Baffert-trained War Emblem in 2002.
American Pharoah has handled the two week break between the Derby and Preakness Stakes well. On the Tuesday morning leading up to the Preakness, American Pharoah galloped 1 ½ miles over Pimlico’s dirt. His trainer, Bob Baffert, commented, “American Pharoah, he is something to see out there. He just floats over the track.”
The son of Pioneerof the Nile is obviously coming into the Preakness Stakes at a solid fitness level, and should not have many excuses for a loss in the Triple Crown’s second jewel. In this 1 3/16 mile contest, he will face Firing Line and stablemate Dortmund. In the past twenty years, the top three Kentucky Derby finishers have run in the Preakness only seven times. In the Preakness, American Pharoah is likely to be the first to the wire over Firing Line and Dortmund respectively. While American Pharoah and Firing Line are close in quality, it seems that the Derby winner will get the advantage again.