The top three finishers from the Arkansas Derby emerged from the 1 1/8-mile race in good order, their connections said Sunday morning.
American Pharoah earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 105 for his effortless eight-length victory over Far Right, a career-best performance that likely stamped the Zayat Stables’ homebred as the betting favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s the best horse I’ve ever owned,” Ahmed Zayat said.
American Pharoah walked the shedrow Sunday morning at Oaklawn and is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs Monday, said Justin Zayat, racing and stallion manager for the owner.
The 2014 champion juvenile had a front-running 6 1/4-length victory in the Rebel Stakes, but the son of Pioneerof the Nile showed a different dimension Saturday, stalking a fast early pace during the early going. He was the 1-10 favorite.
“We were hoping he could do something like that, and he showed it today,” trainer Bob Baffert said following his second Arkansas Derby victory.
Under regular rider Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah equaled the third-largest margin of victory in Arkansas Derby history, and his winning time of 1:48.52 was the fastest since Sir Cherokee's 1:48.39 in 2003.
“The way this horse runs is unbelievable,” Espinoza said.
Zayat Stables also owns Mr. Z, who finished third in the Arkansas Derby, three-quarters of a length behind Far Right, and El Kabeir, third in the Wood Memorial. Both of them have sufficient points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, but Ahmed Zayat wouldn’t commit or decline to commit either of them immediately following the Arkansas Derby.
Tim Austin, an assistant to D. Wayne Lukas, said Mr. Z is scheduled to ship Monday to Churchill Downs.
“He came back great,” Austin said. “He was dragging us around the test barn last night. Everything’s good.”
There’s no question Far Right is headed to the Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Ron Moquett said Far Right will probably ship to Churchill Downs Tuesday and was “99 percent sure” Sunday morning that Mike Smith would again ride the Notional ridgling.
Far Right dropped far behind early in the Arkansas Derby before closing well out in the track to finish second. Moquett, who skipped the Rebel to train Far Right up to the Arkansas Derby, said Smith rode a smart race Saturday.
“He said he was saving us some for the next one. He said it didn’t matter if we were second by five or second by eight. He said he was trying to save some for the next one when things may work more in our direction,” the trainer said.
Moquett said Far Right will wear the silks of majority owner Harry Rosenblum in the Kentucky Derby after he won a coin flip Saturday night with minority owner Robert LaPenta. Rosenblum sold one-third interest in Far Right to LaPenta, a Connecticut businessman, before the Smarty Jones. Under terms of the deal, Rosenblum said Far Right would alternate silks for his races, although it was stipulated Rosenblum’s green and blue silks would be worn in the Arkansas Derby. Rosenblum is a Little Rock, Ark., native and said last week a coin flip would determine whose silks Far Right would wear in the Kentucky Derby.
Madefromlucky, who finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby, is on the bubble at No. 21 (30) on the Derby leaderboard. Bold Conquest, fifth in the Arkansas Derby, ranks 24th with 17 points. The Truth Or Else, seventh in the Arkansas Derby, is 25th with 11 points.
Edited Oaklawn release