LOUISVILLE – Jorge Alvarez was ready to feel something a little different beneath him Friday morning. Instead, the longtime exercise rider for trainer Bob Baffert said that if fatigue is setting in for dual classic winner American Pharoah, it’s news to his hands.
In his second day back to the track and first gallop since his seven-length victory in the Preakness Stakes last Saturday, champion and Triple Crown aspirant American Pharoah went about 1 3/16 miles under Alvarez at Churchill Downs as he prepares for his shot at history in the Belmont Stakes on June 6.
Alvarez is the regular morning pilot for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero and said the bay colt felt very much the same these last two mornings as he did coming out of his Derby triumph.
“He went nice. He didn’t feel like he was tired,” said Alvarez, who has been with Baffert for the last seven years, having previously worked with the late Hall of Famer, Bobby Frankel. “He galloped around good. I’m surprised this horse didn’t seem to change anything. He was pretty much the same (as after the Derby).”
“That’s pretty much him,” Alvarez continued. “You walk him a few days after a race and when he comes back he can get a little fresh. You have to be careful not to let him do too much.
Add Alvarez to the list of those who say American Pharoah has had that ‘It’ quality since he first came in contact with him – and he has as unique and learned a perspective as any. Alvarez used to get on Pioneerof the Nile and Empire Maker – the sire and grandsire, respectively for American Pharoah – when those two Grade I winners were having their morning outings.
“The difference between this horse and other horses is he covers a lot of ground,” said Alvarez, a native of Mexico. “The stride he has is very difference than other horses. From the first day I galloped him, I said…this horse makes you look like you’re going fast, but he’s just covering so much ground. Sometimes I get in trouble with my boss because he thinks I’m going too fast, but I say ‘He’s doing it easy’.”
American Pharoah is set to work at Churchill Downs, potentially next Sunday or Monday, before shipping to Belmont Park either Tuesday or Wednesday for his expected start in the 1 1/2 miles classic. The Zayat Stables homebred is attempting to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 and 12th all time to sweep the Triple Crown.
Among those who will try and take down the smooth-moving juvenile champion is Conquest Stables’ Conquest Curlinate. The son of Curlin, second in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 9, worked five furlongs in :59.80 in company at Churchill Downs Friday morning.
“That’s about as good as you can work at Churchill,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father, trainer Mark Casse. “More importantly, he’s had a race over the Belmont track and ran really well. We think 1 1/2-miles is just right up his alley.”
Conquest Curlinate finished fifth running over the Polytrack at Woodbine in his career debut last November but has not been worse than third in four starts since. Prior to his runner-up finish in the Peter Pan, the gray colt was second in Grade III Illinois Derby on April 18.
“If you’ve seen the horse, physically he just looks like…he’s huge, he’s got this long stride, not like a lot of the other ones,” Norman Casse said.