His last race took place in late September, but the long, long layoff did not affect American Pharoah in Saturday's Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The Bob Baffert-trained colt splashed his way over a muddy track and captured his 2015 debut by just over six lengths.
"This horse, he does everything so effortlessly", Baffert said following his colt's impressive showing. All winter, the three-time Kentucky Derby- winning conditioner has said American Pharoah could indeed be a very special animal as his morning works looked spectacular leading up to his trip to Arkansas.
Sure, the 2-year-old champ of '14 didn't exactly defeat a stellar field in the Rebel. But he and jockey Victor Espinoza took command of the race right out of the gate and the colt went on to win with confidence. His stride was so fluid and he recorded a Beyer speed figure of 100, a dazzling number considering his last race was so long ago.
Baffert believes the Rebel was a perfect start on the road to Churchill Downs and says the colt's next race could be either back at Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby, or a start in their own backyard in the Santa Anita Derby.
As for the latest Derby Fab Five, I firmly believe it's real, real close for the top 3. Stablemate, Dortmund is a major player, while Todd Pletcher's Carpe Diem is certainly one to watch. But this week, Pharoah rules the roost, jumping up from third to the top spot:
1. American Pharoah
3. Carpe Diem
5. Firing Line
How 'bout that, Bob Baffert runners one-two with about 8 weeks til they line up in Derby 141.