By Dick Downey
Photo by Oaklawn Park
American Pharoah sat off a fast pace, pounced and ran off with a win of the Arkansas Derby. The resounding victory could render him the favorite in the Kentucky Derby.
The son of Pioneerof the Nile broke well but was content to sit behind Bridget's Big Luvy, who cut out fast fractions of :22.77 and :45.99. Heading toward the far turn, Victor Espinoza asked American Pharoah for more, and he responded, quickly putting away the pacesetter just after six furlongs had gone in 1:10.54.
American Pharoah jumped out to a daylight lead in the turn. By the time he reached the furlong marker, the mile gone in 1:35.94, he was ahead by 5 1/2 lengths. Under a hand ride, American Pharoah increased his margin to eight lengths at the finish. The final time was 1:48.52 for the 1 1/8 mile.
Far Right, eighth and last by 13 lengths in the early going, was roused by Mike Smith in the far turn, and he finished well to get past Mr. Z inside the final 1/8 mile and run second. Mr. Z, who was third at each of the first three calls, stayed on and finished 3/4 length behind Far Right, edging Madefromlucky by a neck for the show. They were followed by Bold Conquest, Win the Space, The Truth or Else and Bridget's Big Luvy.
The winner was 1-10 odds at post time and returned his legions of backers $2.20, $2.20 and $2.10.
American Pharoah will be shipped directly from Oaklawn Park to Churchill Downs, making him among the first of the Kentucky Derby contenders to train there. War Story has already worked at the track.
The top four finishers in the Arkansas Derby may all qualify for the Kentucky Derby. With today's 100 Derby points, American Pharoah now has a total of 160, fourth on the leaderboard. Far Right picked up 40 points to push his total to 62 and 10th on the list. Mr. Z, who finished last in the Louisiana Derby only two weeks ago, is now 18th with 34 points, 20 of them coming today. Madefromlucky, with 10 points today, has 30 Derby points and is ranked 21st.
Zayat Stables owns American Pharaoh and Mr. Z. They also have number 8 El Kabeir, who has 95 Kentucky Derby points.
Bob Baffert will now seek his fourth Kentucky Derby victory with three prospects at present. Besides American Pharaoh, he trains number 2-ranked Dortmund and number 16 One Lucky Dane.
American Pharoah was bred by Zayat Stables in Kentucky. He's out of Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman.