By Dick Downey
Updated 5:50 p.m. ET
Sunday morning on a fast track at Churchill Downs, American Pharoah and Keen Ice again furthered their preparations for the 147th Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
With trainer Bob Baffert on hand, American Pharoah galloped an easy 1 1/2 mile with his ears pricked. He's expected to breeze Monday morning during the 8:30 time reserved for the two Belmont Stakes contenders.
"He looks very healthy and he's happy; he looks like he's getting ready to work," Baffert said. "He knows that he's getting close to a work so it's getting pretty tough on him. When he hit the quarter pole, he said he wanted to take off, so he'll breeze at 8:30 during the break. We'll probably leave at the half-mile pole sort of like we did last week, and that should be it for him."
The move will be American Pharoah's second workout since the Preakness Stakes.
"I didn't want to wait two weeks to work him because after the Arkansas Derby when I worked him, he was a little too fresh," Baffert said. "He was going faster than we wanted him to. This last week, he was more controllable, which is where we want him a little bit. We don't want him to go too fast early; we want him to get into that nice, fast cruising stride that he has. When he gets his ears forward and he's enjoying it and springing around there like a big kangaroo, we want to see that."
Baffert admits to being anxious. Anything can happen when a horse is in training.
"I don't sleep well the night before a work," he said. "Tomorrow morning I'll be a little nervous for the work, hoping that it's going to go as planned. The horse is showing me that he wants to do something and that he's happy. As long as he's enjoying what he's doing, that's what you want to see. I'm looking forward to it and hope that it goes like it did last week; it went really smooth and you can tell he's really enjoying it. Martin is here to work him, and he knows what we're doing."
Despite the nervousness inherent in the cusp of a run at the Triple Crown, there's also confidence.
"Right now I feel pretty good about him that he's doing this well, but he has to break clean," Baffert said. "My son Bode and I were talking about Larry Collmus and how he's going to call the race, and Bode was in the backseat and he goes 'All I know is I hope he says, 'And they're off in the Belmont, and American Pharoah breaks beautifully.' That's good, we want to hear that.
"I'm more relaxed, and I've gotten older so I've mellowed out a lot. I feel pretty confident the way this horse is coming into it, how he needs to train, getting ready for it. Once I hear the song 'New York, New York,' that's like our two minute warning; that means its close. Once I hear that song I start feeling excited, it kind of livens it up a bit, just like when they play 'My Old Kentucky Home' ... you know it's coming."
When the Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner exited the track, Keen Ice came out and jogged a short distance before galloping almost two miles for trainer Dale Romans.
Kent Desormeaux, set to ride Keen Ice, said today that everything changes in the Belmont Stakes.
“Speed at this point is now irrelevant,” Desormeaux said. “You’d need a horse that can stay, and the guy that I ride will be naturally closer because of the human element. They’re not going to go 46 in the Belmont, otherwise you’d have no chance. So they’ll slow it down, and that will put me naturally closer and if Keen Ice finishes like he finished in the Derby, he has a chance, he’ll be competitive.
“I’m looking forward to it. I like running out of horse at about the16th pole and then trying to carry him the rest of the way and win a race. In the Derby, I went under the wire full of horse. After a mile and a quarter he was just as fresh going under the wire the second time.”
Both horses are scheduled to be shipped to New York via air on Tuesday morning.