10/20/2015 1:05PM

American Pharoah tightens down with fast six furlongs

Shigeki Kikkawa
American Pharoah works six furlongs in 1:10.80 under Martin Garcia on Tuesday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – With Triple Crown winner American Pharoah coming into the Breeders’ Cup Classic off a two-month layoff, having to race 1 1/4 miles, and facing elders for the first time, trainer Bob Baffert cranked up the intensity of his last two works, including a brilliant six-furlong drill on Tuesday morning at Santa Anita that was officially timed in 1:10.80.

“He did it the right way,” Baffert said. “He’s going to have to run hard. The Breeders’ Cup will be pedal to the metal from the gate.”

And since the Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland will be the final start of American Pharoah’s career, Baffert said that when it came to Tuesday’s work, “There’s no hanging back.”


A crowd larger than usual for Tuesday works was at Santa Anita, with many fans bringing cameras. In the stands, one of the interested bystanders was jockey Victor Espinoza, who rides American Pharoah in his races. Martin Garcia is his regular work rider; Baffert entrusts Garcia to with most of his most-important works.


As in his prior drill, American Pharoah and Garcia started well behind stablemate Madam Aamoura, a filly who like American Pharoah is owned by the Zayat family. They began their work shortly before the six-furlong pole, with American Pharoah about five lengths behind Madam Aamoura.

By the three-furlong pole, midway through the drill, American Pharoah was three lengths back and under a pull. He caught Madam Aamoura at the quarter pole and quickly left her, then focused his attention on a horse from the barn of trainer Tim Yakteen, To Tonia and Mike, who was finishing a solo five-furlong work and was about a sixteenth of a mile in front of American Pharoah.

That gave American Pharoah a new target, and though he didn’t catch that horse, it allowed him to continue strongly to the wire and then gallop out powerfully.

“I think he tried to catch that other horse,” Garcia said. “He was good; just galloping.”

Baffert had American Phaorah going out seven furlongs in 1:23.40 and a mile in 1:37.

“Really good. He was Pharoah,” Baffert said.

The time of 1:10.80 was the best of the eight horses who worked six furlongs at Santa Anita on Tuesday. Only one other horse, the Karen Headley-trained Circle the Moon, went faster than 1:13.20, the final time recorded by Madam Aamoura.

American Pharoah also had a major work six days earlier, when he went seven furlongs in 1:23. He is scheduled for a final drill here on Monday before flying to Kentucky on Tuesday, but Baffert said the Monday work will be short and easy compared to the last two.

“It’s sort of sad that this was the last work we’ll ever let him work that way,” Baffert said. “The next one will be really easy.”