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The American Way

Posted by on 4/14/2015 1:43:08 AM

The America Way, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, was on full display Saturday at Oaklawn Park as American Pharoah dominated his rivals in the Arkansas Derby.

Showing a new wrinkle this time, this Bob Baffert student ridden by Victor Espinoza, tracked the pace set by longshot Bridget’s Big Luvy.

By the time they got to the far turn, American Pharoah reeled that rival in and drew away under a hand ride winning geared down with his ears pricked by 8 lengths.

Owned by Ahmet Zayat, American Pharoah was followed home by Far Right, who closed from dead last and Zayat’s other runner in this race, Mr. Z.

American Pharoah has won his last 4 races by a combined total of 22 and a quarter lengths. Since he already had the points needed to get to the Kentucky Derby, it wasn’t about accumulating anything; it was about getting race into this runner.

He will likely get one work over the Churchill Downs strip and be ready for the Kentucky Derby.

His trainer was very pleased, Baffert: “He’s matured substantially. What that other horse got off to the lead, it was either that he’s going to rate or he’s going to be empty today. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but Dortmund is another one who we don’t yet know how good he is. We’ve got a one-two punch and that’s a good position to be in.”

This is not Espinoza’s first time to a rodeo. He has won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes twice. And he was aloft California Chrome when that star when the Kentucky Derby last year.

Espinoza : “The way this horse runs is unbelievable. I don’t feel like he’s running that fast, and then I look back and he’s so far ahead. He was doing it by himself and doing it easy.”

Several past winners of this fixture have gone on to win a plethora of classic races. Sunny’s Halo and Smarty Jones parlayed a win in the Arkansas Derby to take the money in the Kentucky Derby.

Elocutionist, Tank’s Prospect, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex and Curlin did the Ark Derby/Preakness double. And Temperence Hill and Victory Gallop won this event and proved it was no fluke by taking the Belmont Stakes.

As far as history is concerned, American Pharoah’s final time of the Arkansas Derby stands up well. This runner’s final time of 1:48.52 is the fastest Arkansas Derby since Sir Cherokee posted a 1:48.39 time in 2003. And Sir Cherokee’s time was the fastest since Concern went 1:48 flat in 1994.

Beyer Speed Figure-wise, this year’s performance was solid. American Pharoah earned a career best 105 Beyer and it was also his 4 th triple digit Beyer in 5 starts.

Last year Danza earned a 102 Beyer in this race. In 2013 won this classic with an 89 figure and in 2012 Bodemeister, also trained by Baffert, recorded a 108 number.

Watching the replay of this race, one thing stands out in my mind. I remember watching Sunny’s Halo won this race and he also did it geared down, it other words, not asked for this best performance.

American Pharoah was never asked for his best Saturday, Espinoza sat chilly like an ice cube and the runner extended on his own like he is the real deal.

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