American Pharoah was one of few horses with a realistic chance of winning the Kentucky Derby this past Saturday, and in the end, that’s exactly what happened. Victor Espinoza road American Pharoah to victory, rallying in the final stretch to beat Firing Line by a length.
“Amazing. It was just an amazing ride,” Espinoza said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I don’t know how he had that much energy to run that fast, but he’s pretty amazing.”
The immediate question now – as is the case every year after the Kentucky Derby – is can American Pharoah win the Triple Crown? That feat has not been accomplished in 37 years.
“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” said Espinoza, who rode California Chrome to victory in the Kentucky Derry and Preakness last year before coming up short in the Belmont. “For me, I only think about the next race, and I hope he comes back good and gets to Baltimore in good shape. After that, we have to see how he runs in the Preakness and we can go from there.”
Espinoza said that all Triple Crown races are different. The distance, the competition and the time between races all vary. The one constant, however, is pressure. Espinoza wants to win for American Pharoah, for owner Bob Baffert, and, of course, for himself.
Whether the horse feels that same pressure is anyone’s guess.
“I wish I knew,” Espinoza said. “I’m curious, too. I wish I knew and I could ask him. I have no idea, honestly.”
After winning the Derby, Espinoza went out and celebrated with his team.
“I went out all night pretty much,” he said. “I had to catch a plane to go back to California at 6 o’clock in the morning, so I did not sleep.”
Brandon Tierney wondered if Baffert actually made Espinoza catch a commercial flight back to the West Coast.
“No, no,” Espinoza said, laughing. “I flew private.”
Okay, good. Tierney felt relieved.
Now that that’s settled, what are the next steps – both for American Pharoah and for Espinoza?
“For the horse, he’s in Kentucky, and I’m not sure when he’s going to get moved to Baltimore,” Espinoza said. “For myself, I’m over here in California and I will stay here, work out, (do) my normal routine and I’ll probably fly to Baltimore a day before the race.”
The 140th running of the Preakness is Saturday, May 16, at Pimlico Race Course. The race is slated to begin at 6:18 p.m. ET.