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Rewind: American Pharoah impresses in the Arkansas Derby

American Pharoah wins the 2015 Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park
American Pharoah wins the 2015 Arkansas Derby (G1)

The Road to the Kentucky Derby: American Pharoah's Journey to the Arkansas Derby

Every Thoroughbred owner and trainer with hopes of getting their horse into the Kentucky Derby must participate in a specific set of races that are known collectively as the “Road to the Kentucky Derby”. These races, often called “Derby preps”, are assigned points ranging from 1 - 100 that are awarded to the top finishers in each race. Horses with Kentucky Derby potential will often race in a handful of these preps to earn those points. The 20 horses that have accumulated the most points at the end of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series will have a reserved space in the starting gate for the run for the roses. 

American Pharoah’s path to the Kentucky Derby started in 2014 with a win in Santa Anita’s FrontRunner (G1), which, in addition to his win in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), earned him the Eclipse Award for Champion Two-Year-Old Colt. He began his three-year-old season in March with a win in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park and had won his last three starts by an impressive combined total of 14 1/4 lengths. 

American Pharoah returned to Santa Anita Park after his win in the Rebel Stakes (G2) to continue training. Six days later, his owner Ahmed Zayat told reporters that he had “galloped like a freight train” in the morning and was "on a tear”. He was sure that his horse would have no problem succeeding in the next task asked of him - the Arkansas Derby (G1). This confidence, combined with the ease with which he won his last three races, made American Pharoah the heavy favorite. 

[Video: Watch American Pharoah win the Rebel Stakes (G2)]

American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby (G1)

American Pharoah broke perfectly from the gate in the Arkansas Derby, but it was the longshot Bridget’s Big Luvy who was fastest at getting to the lead to set the pace. American Pharoah was accustomed to leading the way, but jockey Victor Espinoza chose to rate him rather than use up valuable energy to take the lead. He wasn’t in second for long; Victor gently asked the horse to pick up the pace as they went around the far turn and American Pharaoh began to move forward without hesitation. 

He was in first within seconds, bounding down the stretch with his ears pricked, his leading margin lengthening with every stride. Track announcer Frank Mirahmadi sent chills through the audience as he hinted at what was to come, “He has not been asked the question, but everyone knows the answer. He is indeed the ruler! American Pharoah, breathtaking in a mesmerizing performance as he dominates the Arkansas Derby!”. 

The colt’s connections were beyond thrilled with his performance. "The way this horse runs is unbelievable," said Espinoza. "I don't feel like he's running that fast and then I look back and he's so far ahead".

Even the beaten trainers could not help but refer to him as a superhorse. Any doubts of his ability ceased to exist after that performance. It was clear that he was going to be something special. 

The Arkansas Derby (G1) was American Pharoah’s final prep for the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the first jewel in the Triple Crown - the crown that he would be the first to wear in 37 years. Today every visitor to Oaklawn Park is greeted with a bronze statue of American Pharoah and each edition of this race conjures up memories of that beautiful, strong, bay colt floating down the stretch on his way to making history. 

[Video: Watch American Pharoah win the Arkansas Derby (G1)]


About: Champions of the Track works to create new fans of horse racing through entertaining, engaging, and informative content. Made by fans of horse racing, for fans of horse racing. Powered by KPB Media.

Learn about the Triple Crown of horse racing in the Horse Racing Resource

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