2015 Kentucky Derby Watch: American Pharoah

November 24, 2014 01:55pm
American Pharoah Del Mar Futurity 615 X 400
Photo: Benoit Photo


Overview - Owned by Zayat Stables, and trained by Bob Baffert, American Pharoah currently stands as the 11-1, top choice, on the most recent 2015 Kentucky Derby future odds from Wynn Las Vegas. With two impressive Grade 1 winning performances, after fading in his career debut, the talented son of Pioneerof the Nile was one of the top two-year-olds in the nation, and stands a very good chance of being rewarded with an Eclipse Award as the best two-year-old male of 2014. Unfortunately, a minor injury prevented a run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but American Pharoah is expected to be healed up in plenty of time to rejoin the Kentucky Derby trail for Baffert at Santa Anita next spring.

Race Record (3-2-0-0) - American Pharoah began his racing career in a 6 ½ furlong maiden special weight race on the Polytrack of Del Mar. Sent off as the 7-5 favorite in early August, the $300,000 yearling purchase contested a lively pace, while wearing blinkers, before fading late to finish fifth.

Undeterred, his connections brought him back 3 ½ weeks later in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, this time without the blinkers. It might have seemed like an ambitious spot, jumping into a Grade 1 test after failing in his career debut, but the connections of American Pharoah were rewarded handsomely for their faith. The bay ridgling went right to the front on the inside, and overpowered the the nine-horse field. He opened up the lead turning for home, and only lengthened his advantage down the stretch, ultimately winning Del Mar’s most important race for juveniles by 4 ¾ impressive lengths in racehorse time of 1:21.48.

American Pharoah’s final start of the year came at Santa Anita in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes, where he tested both two-turns and dirt for the first time. Picking right up where he left off at Del Mar, American Pharoah was hustled right to the lead by rider, Victor Espinoza and never looked back. He was never allowed to get too much of a lead early, but when asked as the field straightened out, he accelerated away from his closest pursuer, Calculator, without much trouble. From there, he coasted to the wire a solid 3 ¼-length winner. Much like his Del Mar win, the clock was a friend of American Pharoah. His final time of 1:41.95 for the 1 1/16 miles was the fastest edition in more than ten years, and a full 1 ½ seconds faster than the female version of the race, run on the same afternoon.

Pedigree - American Pharoah is a son of the young Empire Maker stallion, Pioneerof the Nile. Also a Zayat/Baffert runner, Pioneerof the Nile won four consecutive two-turn graded stakes in Southern California to close out his juvenile year, and push towards the Kentucky Derby of 2009. At Churchill Downs, he finished 2nd in the Run for the Roses. His sire, Empire Maker won the Belmont Stakes, and also finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. Pioneerof the Nile’s half brother, Forefathers, competed in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.


American Pharoah’s female side is more of an unknown. His dam, Littleprincessemma, also owned by the Zayats, was winless in just two career starts. A daughter of the Storm Cat stallion, Yankee Gentleman, Littleprincessemma was produced by the Ecliptical mare, Exclusive Rosette, who was a minor stakes winner, and the producer of two graded stakes winners. Littleprincessemma counts both Storm Wolf and Misty Rosette as half siblings. Both of them won graded stakes in their brief careers, but both did so in sprints.



Strengths - There can be little doubt as to who was the fastest juvenile of 2014. In both the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, and the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes, American Pharoah took it right to his competition early and often and finished off his competition in times better than anything else run by two-year-olds this year. He was also able to carry over his excellent performance on Polytrack to a more traditional dirt surface, albeit a speed favoring one at Santa Anita.

Despite not being fit to run in the Breeders’ Cup, American Pharoah was flattered by the result. Texas Red won the Juvenile in a romp, but had finished nearly five lengths behind the FrontRunner winner in his previous start.

Weaknesses - He may very well be the Champion Two-year-old Male of 2014, but American Pharoah will need to prove that he can carry his speed over classic distances if he is to become a major player in the Triple Crown series. While there is a fair amount of distance influence on his male side, his female family tree does throw up a few red flags concerning his distance capabilities. As an early February foal, he also looked to be more mature than his competition this year, so you have to wonder if those same horses won’t be catching up to him on the maturity scale next spring. 


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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