Preakness winner American Pharoah returns to Churchill Downs

This handout provided by the Maryland Jockey Club shows Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner American Pharoah being held by assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes in a van for transport as they prepare to leave Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Monday, Ma
AP Photo

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) American Pharoah took a short walk to stretch his legs after his flight before getting a bath and retiring to his barn for some well-earned rest.

There was no sign of Jet lag as he returned to Churchill Downs following his dominant Preakness victory that put him on the cusp of capturing the Triple Crown.

Pharoah assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said ''everything went well'' during the trip and added, ''He's a very good shipper.''

After winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, American Pharoah will try to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 when he races in the Belmont Stakes on June 6. He will have light work this week after arriving Monday afternoon from Baltimore and getting a bath in front of Barn 33.

Trainer Bob Baffert isn't expected to arrive from California until next week. American Pharoah will work out at Churchill Downs on May 27 and June 2 before heading to New York for the 1 1/2 mile race.

American Pharoah will be the 13th horse since Affirmed to take his shot at ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought. California Chrome's bid last year fell short in the Triple Crown series' longest race.

Hype and expectations are expected to rise significantly for American Pharoah as the Belmont gets closer. Barnes said he was brought back to Churchill Downs instead of heading early to Belmont Park to let him decompress in a ''smaller storm'' of attention in Louisville rather than the ''bigger storm'' of the Big Apple.

''It's a big race track and sometimes you can do too much training your horse,'' Barnes said of Belmont. ''That track is a deep, sandy track. We like it here, our horse likes training here. You have three weeks, so this is what we prefer to do.''

Familiar surroundings definitely suited Pharoah, who was lively as he exited a trailer. He even got a little feisty during his bath, slightly kicking out his left hind leg as a handler proceeded carefully.

Barnes viewed the little exchange as a good thing.

''He came in here with high energy,'' Barnes said, ''so everything looks good.''

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