Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) – Champion colt American Pharoah, sent off as the 5-2 favorite, blew past Firing Line and stablemate Dortmund to capture Saturday’s 141st running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Last year’s champion 2-year-old, trained by Bob Baffert, notched a length victory over 9-1 fourth pick Firing Line with 4-1 second choice Dortmund, also trained by the Hall of Famer Baffert, in third.
The victory was the second straight for jockey Victor Espinoza in the Run for the Roses after he rode California Chrome in last year’s 1 1/4-mile classic.
“Yes I am,” Espinoza answered after being asked about being lucky. “I feel like the luckiest Mexican on Earth.”
It was the fourth Kentucky Derby victory for Baffert, who previously won with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002). It was the first Kentucky Derby win for owner-breeder Zayat Stables, which also had Mr. Z in the race. The owner’s El Kabeir was scratched from the Derby on Friday with an injury.
American Pharoah, winner three weeks ago of the Arkansas Derby, broke from an outside post in the 18-horse field of 3-year-olds. He raced off the rail stalking pacesetter Dortmund with Firing Line second.
The three colts were across the track coming into the stretch. Firing Line had a short lead inside the 3/16ths pole with American Pharoah second and Dortmund third toward the inside.
At the furlong pole, Firing Line and American Pharoah were even, but the favorite drew away approaching the finish. American Pharoah went on to win his fifth straight race in six career starts and can become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.
“He’s been a special horse since the day I rode him. He’s tremendous, he has a lot of talent,” Espinoza exclaimed after the pair recorded their fifth victory since being united last year.
The jockey now has three Kentucky Derby wins, including aboard War Emblem 13 years ago.
The time for the Derby, in front of a record crowd of 170,513, was 2:03.02 on a fast track.
American Pharoah returned $7.80, $5.80 and $4.20. Firing Line paid $8.40 and $5.40, and Dortmund paid $4.20 for show.
Completing the order of finish were Frosted, Danzig Moon, Materiality, Keen Ice, Mubtaahij, Itsaknockout, Carpe Diem, Frammento, Bolo, Mr. Z, Ocho Ocho Ocho, Far Right, War Story, Tencendur and Upstart. Stanford was scratched Thursday and International Star was withdrawn Saturday morning.
Winning the Kentucky Derby was worth more than $1 million. American Pharoah has banked better than $2.5 million.
The 3-year-old won the Arkansas Derby by eight lengths on April 11 at Oaklawn Park. He began his 2015 season just four weeks earlier by winning Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes.
The colt finished fifth in his 2-year-old debut at Del Mar with jockey Martin Garcia, who was aboard Dortmund Saturday. American Pharoah was then teamed with Espinoza and proceeded to win the Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner at Santa Anita. He was unable to start the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to an injury.
Next is the 140th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 16 followed by the Belmont Stakes on June 6.