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American Pharoah Wins Gr1 Kentucky Derby
Favourite American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile-Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentlemen) overcame a wide run and a determined rival to capture the 141st running of the US$2 million Gr1 Kentucky Derby (10 furlongs) at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The Bob Baffert-trained colt became the first champion 2YO to win the Derby since Street Sense in 2007 when proving too classy for runner-up Firing Line (Line of David) and stable-mate Dortmund (Big Brown) to score by 1-length in front of a record crowd of 170,513. However, the 5-2 favourite's performance was much more impressive than the length margin suggests, as he had to overcome a torrid run that saw him trapped three deep for the entire race. Bred by Zayat Stables, the victory took on a special significance for American Pharoah's owner Ahmed Zayat with the star colt going one better than his sire, and former Zayat owned galloper, Pioneerof the Nile, who finished runner-up to Mine That Bird in the 2009 edition of the race. The victory represented the fourth Derby success for Hall of Famer Baffert, after wins by Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem in 2002. "We were ready to rumble," Baffert told Blood Horse. "Since their last works I was hearing how good they were and I was hoping it would come true. I felt very confident going in." Jockey Victor Espinoza, who was aboard California Chrome last year and War Emblem in 2002, became the seventh jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys. He's also the sixth jockey to win back-to-back Derby's, joining Calvin Borel, Ron Turcotte, Eddie Delahoussaye, Jimmy Winkfield, and Isaac Murphy. "It's all about confidence," Espinoza said. "And with Bob Baffert, he gives you that confidence." He added, "I feel like the luckiest Mexican on earth. He has been a special horse since the first time I rode him. He has a lot of talent and is an unbelievable horse. Turning for home I started riding a little bit harder. At the eighth pole I just couldn't put that other horse (Firing Line) away, but he got it done." The outstanding American Pharoah took his record to 5 wins (including the Gr1 Arkansas Derby & Gr1 Frontrunner Stakes) from 6 starts for US$2,830,300 earnings. The second leg of the US Triple Crown, the Gr1 Preakness Stakes, will be run at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore on 16 May.