Derby winner American Pharoah a go in Preakness

Farm Forum

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Lured by the promise of carrots, American Pharoah was led out of the barn to face a throng of cameras.

Reluctant at first, the Kentucky Derby winner perked up when trainer Bob Baffert offered the colt’s favorite snack. American Pharoah pricked his ears upon hearing the click of cameras and struck a regal pose.

“The good ones,” Baffert said on May 3, “they love the clicks.”

And the white-haired trainer has got himself a good one.

“He’s just so good and so special,” a clearly biased Baffert said. “He was born with that talent.”

Now he and his fourth Derby winner are headed to Baltimore for the Preakness, the next stop on the Triple Crown trail. Baffert has won that race five times, most recently in 2010. He confirmed his intentions with Maryland Jockey Club officials in a phone call later on May 3.

Third-place finisher Dortmund, who led much of the way, is probable to run in the 1 3/16-mile race on May 16, too.

“The way he was traveling down the backside, I thought maybe he was going to win it,” Baffert said.

He will decide Dortmund’s next race for sure after talking with owner Kaleem Shah.

“I’m sure he’s going to want a little revenge,” Baffert said. “His horse ran a really good race.”

The trainer has no mixed emotions about possibly running American Pharoah, owned by Ahmed Zayat, and Dortmund against each other a second time.

“My job is to get my people there if the horse is doing well,” Baffert said. “They understand that sometimes I’ll beat them with another horse. If Dortmund turns the table on him, so be it.”

He plans to keep American Pharoah and Dortmund at Churchill Downs before sending them to Baltimore, likely on May 13.

A record crowd of 170,513 packed Churchill Downs under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s on May 2 to watch a favorite win for the third straight year. American Pharoah rallied to overtake 10-1 shot Firing Line in the stretch and win by a length.

On- and off-track wagering on the 13-race card totaled a record $194.3 million, up 4 percent from the mark of $187 million set in 2012. Total wagering on the Derby was a record $137.9 million, a 4 percent increase from the $133.1 million also set three years ago.

American Pharoah came into the Derby having run just five races, which could make him fresher than some of his rivals if he ends up running in all three Triple Crown races over five weeks.

“With more racing, he’s getting smarter,” Baffert said. “He has that long stride, he’s quick, he’s got a really good mind and he just floats over the ground.”

Dortmund is a dedicated front-runner. American Pharoah, however, can stalk the leaders and pounce or set the pace.

“He’s quick, he’s handy, you can move on him at any time,” Baffert said. “He’s not one-dimensional, which is so nice to have.”

Besides the possibility of Dortmund, American Pharoah can expect to see Firing Line in the Preakness.

“Hopefully, we can get our revenge in Baltimore,” trainer Simon Callaghan said.

It would be the first time the top three Derby finishers went on to the Preakness since 2009, when Derby champ Mine That Bird, Pioneerof the Nile (sire of American Pharoah), and Musket Man did.

Other possible Preakness contenders include fifth-place Danzig Moon, and International Star, who was scratched the morning of the Derby with a minor foot injury. They could be joined by Lexington Stakes winner Divining Rod and Federico Tesio winner Bodhisattva.

Baffert welcomes all comers, believing it helps the sport when Derby horses stay on the Triple Crown trail.

“We’re prepared for another tough race,” he said.

Baffert said this Derby victory — his fourth and first since War Emblem in 2002 — was different from the others.

“It’s a huge sigh of relief to get it done,” he said. “I may never have another chance like this. It was my Derby to lose and we got lucky.”