Kentucky Derby 141 proved handicappers correct as pre-race favorite American Pharoah topped an elite field to capture the annual Run for the Roses, in front of a record-breaking crowd of 170,513 at Churchill Downs.
Owned and bred by Ahmed Zayat, the win gives trainer Bob Baffert his fourth Kentucky Derby victory, and jockey Victor Espinoza his third. Espinoza became just the sixth jockey in history to win the Kentucky Derby in back-to-back years after taking California Chrome to the Winner’s Circle in 2014.
American Pharoah improved his record to 5-0-0 in six starts, continuing a five race winning streak that he began as a 2-year-old in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity. He went on to win the Frontrunner Stakes, Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby leading into the Kentucky Derby. His sire is 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, while his dam is Littleprincessemma.
Draped with the number 18, American Pharoah actually began the race in the 16th position after pre-race scratches to International Star and El Kabeir. This would prove helpful as he was able to avoid getting stuck in a traffic jam encompassing most of the field by staying to the outside as they passed the stands for the first time.
Dortmund, a fellow Baffert trainee ridden by Martin Garcia, led the charge for the first ¾ of a mile in a time of 23.24 and continued to lead at fractions 47.34 and 1:11.29. Firing Line, with Gary Stevens in the saddle for and trainer Simon Callagah, stayed just to Dortmund’s outside throughout and American Pharoah was just behind with the duo in his sights.
The trio were mostly even at the top of the final stretch and battled closely as they came down, leaving doubt on which would ultimately get to the Finish Line first. American Pharoah and Firing Line began to separate themselves as the race came to a close, with American Pharoah not fully pulling away until the final 1/16th.
Firing Line placed a length behind American Pharoah, while Dortmund held on to show, three lengths back. Frosted rallied late to finish fourth for jockey Joel Rosairo and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Dazing Moon (Julien Leparoux, Mark Casse) crossed in fifth.
Materiality, ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by Todd Pletcher, finished sixth, while Keen Ice (Kent Desormeaux, Dale Momans) and Mubtaahij (Cristophe Soumillion, Mike de Kock) were seventh and eighth, respectfully. Itsaknockout (Luis Saez, Pletcher) and Carpe Diem (John Velasquez, Pletcher) made up the rest of the top 10.
Frammento (Corey Nakatani, Nick Zito), Bolo (Rafael Bejarano, Carla Gaines), Mr. Z (Ramon Vazquez, D. Wayne Lukas), Ocho Ocho Ocho (Elvis Trujillo, Jim Cassidy), Far Right (Mike Smith, Ron Moquett), War Story (Joe Talamo, Tom Amoss), Tencendur (Manny Franco, George Weaver) and Upstart (Jose Ortiz, Rick Violette, Jr.) rounded out the rest of the field.