Post time favorite American Pharoah justified the confidence of Kentucky Derby betting enthusiasts by overcoming a tough post position assignment and outlasting the field for a victory in the ‘Run for the Roses’. In the process, he became the fourth Bob Baffert trained horse to win the Kentucky Derby and the first to do so from the #17 post position.
American Pharoah entered the last few weeks of run up heading into the Kentucky Derby as the betting favorite but few ‘horse racing experts’ had much enthusiasm for him. The rap was that he ‘hadn’t been tested by adversity’ and that his response to a competitive situation was unknown. This opinion is debatable–American Pharoah had all sorts of things working against him in the Rebel Stakes including a misplaced shoe and he ended up winning the race with ease. At any rate, these so called ‘experts’ had more interest in the other Baffert trained horse, Dortmund for the same reason–he had ‘been tested’ in winning some close races against determined challengers.
The anti-American Pharoah sentiment grew after the post position assignments and scratch of Stanford which put him into the dreaded #17 post position. He was originally in the #18 starting position and only one horse had won the Derby from that position since the use of starting gates began in 1930. The naysayers suggested that he’d gone from the ‘frying pan to the fire’ after the Stanford defection which moved him into the #17 position–a starting slot that no horse had ever won from.
As he’d done throughout his three year old campaign, American Pharoah made the difficult look easy. Getting a flawless ride from jockey Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah quickly powered inside and into a perfect racing position. From that point it was a three horse race with Dortmund setting the pace and Firing Line right behind. By the 3/4 turn the horses were neck and neck and remained so until the top of the stretch. At that point, American Pharoah simply willed his way past Firing Line and Dortmund to claim the victory.
Next up–the Preakness Stakes where American Pharoah will attempt to win the second leg of the Triple Crown.