The superlatives flowed following American Pharoah’s incredible win in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) as the son of Pioneerof the Nile rolled by some eight lengths in his final test before the May 2 Kentucky Derby (G1).
American Pharoah, who had been on the lead at every call in his previous three wins, showed another dimension today as he sat off the hot pace set by Bridget’s Big Luvy, who zipped through splits of :22.77 and :45.99. Victor Espinoza had the bay colt poised to strike any time, and moved effortless to the front while getting six furlongs in 1:10.54.
Though Espinoza didn’t ask the Zayat Stables homebred at any point, American Pharoah left the field far behind in the stretch with one of the most dominating Derby prep race performances in recent years. Espinoza let his mount coast under the wire at his leisure, getting the 1 1/8-miles in 1:48.52.
"Bob (trainer Baffert) was concerned if he would rate. He showed me today he will rate," said assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, who deputized for Baffert on Saturday.
Baffert will now take American Pharoah on to Churchill Downs, where he likely will be one of the top choices for the 141st Run for the Roses. After the $600,000 payday, American Pharoah has won $1,411,500, making him Pioneerof the Nile’s first millionaire offspring. He has won four of five starts, all in graded stakes.
"He's always been something special from the start," Baffert said of the colt. "It's in the way he works; he's just really an intelligent, gifted horse ... I'm glad he got it done, and he did it the right way."
Pioneerof the Nile, who was the nation’s leading Second-Crop sire of 2014, is on top of this year’s Third-Crop sire list, with nearly $1.7 million in progeny earnings to date.