It had been 13 years since Bob Baffert won his third Kentucky Derby (G1), but American Pharoah put an end to the drought with a hard-fought one length victory on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The win also marked a satisfying triumph for owner Ahmed Zayat, who had teamed up with Baffert for frustrating runner-up finishes with Bodemeister in 2012 and Pioneerof the Nile (sire of American Pharoah) in 2009.
Zayat, who was overcome with emotion in the post-race press conference, reflected on his homebred champion.
“We own the mare (Littleprincessmama) and raced the sire (Pioneerof the Nile) so this is 100% satisfying. We are very blessed,” said an emotional Ahmed Zayat after the race.
Baffert talked about American Pharoah and third-place finisher Dortmund, recalling how the last week had gone for both.
“I’ve been on pins and needles all week, but it’s been a good week. I might have had them a little too fresh. When you’re working with horses of this caliber, there is a fine line. (American Pharoah) worked a tad fast the other day, so I backed off of him a little bit the rest of the week.”
Baffert said he had simple instructions for his jockeys in the paddock.
”I told my riders (Victor Espinoza on American Pharoah and Martin Garcia on Dortmund) ‘It’s between you guys and Gary Stevens (on runner-up Firing Line).’ Go get them.”
Both Zayat and Baffert said, pending any setbacks, American Pharoah would go on to Baltimore for the Preakness S. (G1) in two weeks. Baffert also said the horse would not need to work between now and then since his fitness level is where it needs to be.
American Pharoah has won five of his six lifetime starts, all in graded stakes. He has now earned $2,830,300, with victories in the Arkansas Derby (G1), Del Mar Futurity (G1), FrontRunner S. (G1) and Rebel S. (G2).
Baffert became just the fourth trainer in the 141-year history of the Derby to have four winners in the race. Ben Jones has a record six, while D. Wayne Lukas and Dick Thompson both have four. Baffert’s first win came with Silver Charm in 1997, then Real Quiet the following year, and War Emblem in 2002.