American Pharoah Romps to Victory in 140th Preakness Stakes

Bob Baffert Trainee on Course for Bid to Sweep Triple Crown
Crowd of 131,680 Sets Pimlico Attendance Record
All-Sources Handle Increases to $85.161 Million

 

BALTIMORE, MD., 05/16/15 – Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah romped over the sloppy track at Pimlico Race Course to register a seven-length victory in Saturday’s 140th Preakness Stakes (G1), earning an opportunity to make a bid for a Triple Crown sweep in three weeks.

The Bob Baffert-trained 3-year-old colt, who had to work hard to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) by a length two weeks ago, overpowered his seven rivals in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown with a front-running triumph under Victor Espinoza.

American Pharoah is scheduled to run in the Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 6 to vie for a chance to become Thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown champion and first since Affirmed earned immortality in 1978.

“He’s just an amazing horse. Everybody talks about the greatness and he’s starting to show it. To me, they have to prove it. Today, the way he did it. He’s just so fast, the way he ran,” Baffert said. “It was like poetry in motion.”

As the horses were being saddled on the infield turf course, a heavy rain turned the racing surface sloppy – a condition American Pharoah handled easily while winning the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park on March 14. The son of Pioneerof the Nile, the 9-10 favorite, again demonstrated a distinct affinity for the wet going while posting his sixth consecutive victory in the $1.5 million Preakness.

After breaking a bit awkwardly from his No. 1 post position, American Pharoah was hustled to the lead by Espinoza in the run along the front-stretch. The Derby winner showed the way around the turn and along the backstretch, chased by long shot Mr. Z as others, including second-betting choice Firing Line and Baffert-trained Dortmund appeared to have trouble handling the sloppy surface. American Pharoah maintained his uncontested lead around the far turn after posting fractions of 22.90 seconds, 46.49 and 1:11.42 for the first six furlongs of the 1 3/16-mile classic and sprinted clear through the stretch run.

Tale of Verve, a 28-1 long shot ridden by Joel Rosario, closed to finish second, a length ahead of Divining Rod and jockey Javier Castellano. Dortmund, ridden by Martin Garcia, finished fourth. Firing Line, the Kentucky Derby runner-up ridden by Gary Stevens, was never a factor and finished seventh.

“It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t be any happier, not just for my family, and Bob (Baffert) and Victor (Espinoza), but for the whole racing world,” owner Ahmed Zayat said. “We need a star. He’s indeed the real deal. Please God, let’s continue, let the fun start. ”

American Pharoah became Baffert’s sixth Preakness winner and fourth Kentucky Derby champion to take the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. The Hall of Fame trainer has failed to saddle a Triple Crown winner in the Belmont, finishing second with Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998) in the 1 ½-mile classic. War Emblem (2002) was never a factor in his bid.

Baffert also captured the Preakness with Point Given (2001) and Lookin At Lucky (2010).

Espinoza has had two chances to ride a Triple Crown champion, coming up short with California Chrome, who finished fourth last year, and War Emblem.

Saturday’s 14-race program that included eight stakes, four graded, attracted a record crowd of 131,680.  The Preakness Day card also generated an increase in handle. An all-sources handle of $85,161 million Saturday exceeded last year’s handle of $83,786.

                                           
PREAKNESS  STAKES QUOTES

Winning trainer Bob Baffert (American Pharoah): “What a day for Baltimore. They really needed this after all they’ve been through. I’m really happy for them. I just love coming here.”

 “We were going in hoping he would do something like that. You never know how they’re going to react. We just told Victor, ‘Just let him roll today.’ It turned out all right with the rain there. I was getting a little bit leery there, but I know he loves the mud. Once Victor got him rolling, the way he moves he’s just the most beautiful moving horse.

“My wife said ‘22-and-change and I said, ‘He’s doing it pretty easy.’ He slowed it down a little bit down the backside. Victor said he couldn’t see anything in front of him. When I saw his ears were pricked I knew the cotton balls were dry. I knew he was just cruising around there.

“He’s just an amazing horse. Everybody talks about the greatness and he’s starting to show it. To me, they have to prove it. Today, the way he did it. He’s just so fast, the way he ran. It was like poetry in motion.

 He broke a little bit awkward, but once Victor got him rolling again, he had to deal with Mr. Z. I knew he would have to deal with him for a little ways.”

Winning owner Ahmed Zayat (American Pharoah): “It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t be any happier, not just for my family, and Bob (Baffert) and Victor (Espinoza), but for the whole racing world. We need a star. He’s indeed the real deal. Please God, let’s continue, let the fun start. ”

“I was so confident. He was going so easy, like he usually does – effortless. He’s loving it. I was confident. It was unreal. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse. So special.”

 “I either wanted a fast track and fair for everybody or I wanted a monsoon. I wanted it because the track when it is drying out is much harder on horses. It becomes deeper and harder for them. I wanted a monsoon.  He swum through it and we love him.”

“I was very, very cautious about how we put him in the context of history, but I think he’s the real one. Please God, let’s see what happens.”

Winning jockey Victor Espinoza (American Pharoah): “I was freezing. I was just so wet. It worked out well. I had to bounce out of the gate to take the lead with all the rain.

(On race strategy): “All changed with the rain, but it worked out well.

“I took a chance and sent him as quick as I can. Sometimes you have to make decisions. That's my job. Today, I made the right decision.

(On his third attempt at sweeping the Triple Crown): “I hope the third one is the charm.”

Trainer Dallas Stewart (Tale of Verve, 2nd): “What a horse. I had no idea where he was in the race. He’s a tremendous horse. He’s getting better all the time. Congratulations to the winner. We will see him at Belmont. I think this validated what he is. He’s an improving horse. It was a wonderful run.”

Jockey Joel Rosario (Tale of Verve, 2nd): “I had a good trip, perfect trip. The further we went he kept picking it up. It was a great race for him. He ran a very big race.”

Trainer Arnaud Delacour (Divining Rod, 3rd):  “We are very happy with that, being third in a Grade 1 in the Preakness. He was right there with a great trip, and thanks for (Javier) Castellano for that, because he gave him a great ride.”

Jockey Javier Castellano (Divining Rod, 3rd): “It was quite a bit tougher for us today under these conditions than it should have been.”

Trainer Bob Baffert (Dortmund, 4th): “I was hoping he’d show a little more. I was afraid about the mud with him and his big feet.”

Jockey Martin Garcia (Dortmund, 4th): “He didn’t like the sloppy track. He didn’t come out good from the gate and he didn’t like the mud in his face. Not his best effort today.”

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas (Mr. Z, 5th): “The adverse conditions likely affected seven of eight horses. It obviously didn’t bother the winner. My horse ran very well. He was well-placed and I thought he actually might finish second. I’ve said it since March, [American Pharoah] is special, and this might be the year.”

Jockey Corey Nakatani (Mr. Z, 5th): “He ran dynamite today and did everything he could to take on the winner under the circumstances. He was in it and really ran great. That winner is a really nice horse. It was very wet, sloppy and water was everywhere. The track was in good condition, considering the water. We did everything we could against the winner, but he is a very nice horse. I had a great trip other than I felt like I should have been on a shark or a dolphin.”

Trainer Mark Casse (Danzig Moon, 6th): “I never saw him. It was pretty bad. He hasn’t stopped coughing since he came back. That happens when they eat all that stuff. God decided he wanted to rain on it, so what do you want to do? It’s just frustrating. You work and work and work to get him ready, and you just want to have a shot at a fair race. If they beat you, they beat you. Look, American Pharoah is a good horse, and I think he has a shot at the Triple Crown.”

Jockey Julien Leparoux (Danzig Moon, 6th): “It was OK, not what we needed. The horse kind of struggled out there a little bit and flattened out at the end a little bit. I don’t think the track was to his liking but other than that it was OK.”

Trainer Simon Callaghan (Firing Line, 7th): “His second jump out he stumbled badly. That took his momentum and then he never really got hold of the track. Nothing went right, what with all that rain coming. I don't know about the Belmont.”

Jockey Gary Stevens (Firing Line, 7th): “We stumbled out of the gate and that was our race today.”

Owner/trainer Jose Corrales (Bodhisattva, 8th): “He didn’t try. One morning in training, behind other horses in the rain I ran him and he didn’t even try.  Same today. I was praying he wouldn’t be behind, but he was behind from the start.  It wasn’t the race we were expecting.  The race was like nothing, but life goes on. We tried and I hope we are in this position again, but at the front end next time.”

Jockey Trevor McCarthy (Bodhisattva, 8th): “He just spun his wheels out there today. He never could get a hold of it. He was really crazy out there at first. In the middle of the race the weather actually started to settle down. Today just wasn’t his day. On a normal day, he would have been closer. He was just hard to handle.”

 

ATTACHMENT: Preakness Transcript ASAP Sports