The Champ Settles In At Churchill Downs

by | 04.13.2015 | 11:15pm
Champion American Pharoah arrives at Churchill Downs two days after his sensational Arkansas Derby victory

Zayat Stables' American Pharoah, fresh off a dominant eight-length victory in Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby (Grade I) at Oaklawn Park, completed an uneventful Monday journey from the Hot Springs, Ark., track to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., where he stepped off a van at the home of the G1 Kentucky Derby shortly after 4 p.m. (all times Eastern).

The Bob Baffert-trained son of Pioneerof the Nile was accompanied to Barn 33 at Churchill Downs by assistant trainer Jim Barnes, who had traveled from the three-time Kentucky Derby winner's Southern California base to the Arkansas Derby with American Pharoah.

“The horse looked like he traveled very well –  he's a good traveler,” Barnes said. “The reason why we came here so early is that we were already halfway here. You don't want to go back to California and then come back to Churchill.”

American Pharoah, America's champion 2-year-old of 2014, carries a four-race winning streak – all stakes races and three out of four being Grade I stakes events – into the Kentucky Derby. His career record starts at 4-0-0 in five races with earnings of $1,411,500. He has not been tested in his four races since his September debut at Del Mar, where American Pharoah finished fifth of nine in maiden special weight race that was his only start outside of graded stakes company.

Barnes said American Pharoah won't need much training over the Churchill Downs track to be ready for the Kentucky Derby run on the first Saturday in May.

“We're at Churchill and he'll just take it easy,” Barnes said. “He doesn't need to do much. He'll breeze one time before the race.”

American Pharoah was accompanied to Baffert's Churchill Downs barn by G1 Kentucky Oaks candidate Maybellene and G1 Clark Handicap winner Hoppertunity, who is nominated to the G2 Alysheba on Kentucky Oaks Day. Two more Baffert-trained Derby hopes – Kaleem Shah's unbeaten Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Dortmund and Michael Lund Petersen's Santa Anita Derby runner-up One Lucky Dane – remain in Southern California.

Arriving at Churchill Downs shortly after American Pharoah was Mr. Z, the third-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby and the second of Zayat's trio of Kentucky Derby hopes. Mr. Z is trained by four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas and scored his only win in 12 races in his career debut at Churchill Downs in late June. The son of Malibu Moon has four runner-up finishes and four third-place runs in those races and has earned $652,226.

Zayat also owns G3 Gotham and G3 Kentucky Jockey Club winner El Kabeir, who is training in New York with trainer John Terranova.

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