American Pharoah gallops at Churchill Downs


Zayat Stables' Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah turned in his first gallop since his seven-length romp in the May 16 Xpressbet.com Preakness Stakes in preparation for the final leg of the Triple Crown, the June 6 Belmont Stakes.

The homebred colt galloped 1 3/16 miles over the Churchill Downs main track at 8:30 a.m. EDT following the renovation break with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up.

"It went nice. [It] didn't seem like he was tired or anything," Alvarez said. "He came back pretty much the same [after the Derby]. So far, no difference."

Alvarez says one of the most significant 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, a native of Tijuana, Mexico, 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 has covered so much ground."

Alvarez wouldn't be disappointed if the track on Belmont Day was similar to the Preakness Day slop at Pimlico Race Course, 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 with regular rider Victor Espinoza in the irons.

"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, was also 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 farther maybe [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 14th time -- and third in the past 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 1/2-mile Belmont could include (with known jockeys) Carpe Diem, Conquest Curlinate (Shaun Bridgmohan), Frammento (Mike Smith) and Frosted (Joel Rosario).

Others include Keen Ice (Kent Desormeaux), Madefromlucky, Materiality, Mubtaahij (Irad Ortiz Jr.), Tale of Verve (Gary Stevens) and War Story (Colby Hernandez).