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American Pharoah clears contenders in Derby stretch

Posted by Webster Washington on 5/6/2015 7:34:22 AM

As the horses came down the stretch at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, it became clear that one of three colts would be the winner. That part could have been predicted early in the race. As it turned out, American Pharoah survived the battle in the final furlong and won American horse-racing’s biggest prize, before a record crowd of better than 170,000. It was a big day for winning trainer Bob Baffert, who also trained the third-place finisher, Dortmund. It was just as big for jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode the Derby winner for a second straight year.

But Baffert’s two contenders joined trainer Simon Callaghan’s Firing Line to set the pace for the race early, and they maintained it the whole way. The three survived the 17-horse scuffle to get out front at the first turn, Dortmund leading on the rail, Firing Line on his right flank, and American Pharoah comfortably loping behind them.

Dortmund kept the pace on comfortable fractions of a half-mile in 47.34 seconds, and three-quarters in 1 minute 11.29 seconds. Jockey Martin Garcia guided him inside as they entered the stretch, as Firing Line moved to the middle of the track, and American Pharoah maintained the five-wide position he had during the entire race. Then jockey Gary Stevens took Firing Line to challenge Dortmund and urged him by, after about 30 yards. But Firing Line eventually gave way to the determined American Pharoah, who was still coming hard from the outside.

The payouts; the next leg

He won by a length over Firing Line, with Dortmund another two lengths back. American Pharoah paid $7.80, $5.80 and $4.20 as the 5-2 favorite. Firing Line paid $8.40 and $5.40, while Dortmund paid $4.20 in the show spot. The exacta went up at $72.60, the trifecta paid $202, and the superfecta paid $634.10, with Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Frosted holding down the fourth position.

Now the question becomes: which of these colts, and others, will join American Pharoah in The Preakness, the second leg of The Triple Crown? And, does American Pharoah have a shot at being the first to win The Triple Crown since 1978? The way he kept to the outside and showed, gut, determination and heart down the stretch of the 1¼-mile Derby, certainly gives him the look. He won two graded stakes races in fine fashion earlier this year, and had two Grade 1 triumphs in his two-year old season. But California Chrome had good form last year, too, and Big Brown was almost certain to complete the Triple Crown feat in 2008.

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