<
>

Pharoah jogs at Belmont

14m

American Pharoah felt so good this morning at Belmont Park that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert decided to let him get a full look at the racing surface.

Originally planning just to give the Triple Crown contender a short jog in his first visit to the track June 3, Baffert called an audible when American Pharoah was on the muscle under exercise rider Jorge Alvarez and sent the two for a full circuit of "Big Sandy."

"He was pretty much on the muscle, he was ready to go back galloping tomorrow," Alvarez said.

"I was going to back him up to about the three-eighths, half-mile pole and then turn him around and jog him back this way," Baffert said. "He was so strong, I could tell when he got onto the track he was just marching right along and really full of himself, so I called an audible on the radio with [assistant trainer] Jimmy [Barnes] and jogged all the way around.

"It was better that way, otherwise he would have wanted to gallop, he would have been too tough down the stretch. He really looks happy out there and that's the whole key, to keep him happy."

It was American Pharoah's first trip back to the track since breezing June 1 at Churchill Downs and then walking the shedrow June 2 before shipping to New York.

"When he walks one day, usually the first day back [to the track] he wants to do a little bit more," Baffert said. "I just loved the way he was when he got on the track. When he's marching along like that, that's a good sign. That's what I wanted to see.

"Tomorrow we'll just go straight off with him and have a nice little gallop around there."

Bred in Kentucky by Zayat Stables out of the Yankee Gentleman mare Littleprincessemma, American Pharoah could become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to sweep the Triple Crown, and is the fourth contender Baffert will take to New York in pursuit of the legendary series.

Baffert tackled the Triple Crown in 1997 with Silver Charm; 1998 (Real Quiet); and 2002 (War Emblem), but those three contenders fell short in the 1-1/2-mile Belmont.

American Pharoah won the May 2 Kentucky Derby by a length and took the May 16 Xpressbet.com Preakness Stakes by seven lengths. The 2-year-old champion male of 2014, he enters the Belmont on a six-race win streak, those victories garnered at five different tracks by a combined margin of 30-1/4 lengths.

"He really travels a lot and he has handled it," Baffert said. "Usually it's tough on them to travel because they lose weight, but he's holding his weight. He's right there and his appetite is good. He likes this place. I like what I see. We'll just keep him at this level of happy."

"I don't think he minds [the new track]," Alvarez said. "He has been to five different tracks and we normally go in three days before a race. I don't see a difference here."