JC / Railbird


Saturday, Churchill

Eric Crawford on American Pharoah parading at Churchill Downs on Saturday:

Crowds show up for one reason, to watch you run. Instead, he was being led over and turned not up the tunnel to be saddled, but kept straight on the grandstand, introduced as “Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah,” to each section, as ovation followed ovation.

Entering the paddock, a throng just as large, it seemed, as the one on the frontside was waiting. He passed a man wearing a pharaoh’s headgear. Rows of fans pressed forward on every balcony. The paddock was full, with fans holding signs and shouting to the horse, as if he could understand.

“I’ve waited all my life to see you,” one man said.

It was something to see, so many people pressing to catch a glimpse of the the 12th Triple Crown winner. The cheering was constant.

I saw American Pharoah earlier in the day, getting to the backstretch in time to watch him gallop. He was accompanied by a band of fans to the track and back, surrounded by admirers as he was bathed. Everyone was taking pictures. That part I’ve seen before. What I never have, though, is what happened next, when his bath was done, and he was led into the barn to walk the shedrow wearing his Triple Crown winner’s blanket — his audience applauded.

Photos from Saturday:

American Pharoah gallops at Churchill Downs

American Pharoah gets a bath

American Pharoah walks the shedrow

American Pharaoh parades in the Churchill Downs paddock

Fans line the paddock fence for American Pharoah

Sunday, Belmont

Sunday at Belmont Park

The Rule Breaker

The latest example of why the rules don’t matter: Animal Kingdom. Although Team Valor’s Kentucky Derby winning colt did run as a 2-year-old, he was only the second to win with four or fewer career starts, and he was the first since Needles in 1956 to win off a six-week layoff. He’s the fifth straight Derby winner to prep with only two starts as a 3-year-old, neither a Grade 1, and his Beyer speed figure of 103 is the lowest since Giacomo was given 100 in 2005. Animal Kingdom was also making his first start on dirt in the Kentucky Derby, coming off a win in the Spiral Stakes over the Polytrack at Turfway. I’ve argued here before, sometimes with stats, that synthetic surface-prepped horses are viable Derby contenders. Next year, such horses shouldn’t be throw-outs for anyone on the basis of surface.

Some photos from Saturday at Churchill …

Mucho Macho Man leaving the barn for the Derby.

Cheering for the Derby starters as they exit the gap.

Midnight Interlude and Shackleford waiting to begin the walk over.

The clubhouse crowd.

Animal Kingdom in the post parade.

Dialed In, the 5-1 favorite, after finishing eighth in the Derby.

Steve Asmussen and Corey Nakatani discussing Nehro’s second-place finish.

Animal Kingdom heading to the winner’s circle.

Kentucky Derby Week

Kentucky Derby hats

Bob Baffert

The big training board

Sway-backed Sway Away

Nick Zito talks, Dialed In walks

Wagner’s Pharmacy

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