Triple Crown winner American Pharoah quietly returns home
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Police escorts guided American Pharoah and his entourage back home to Churchill Downs on Sunday, hours after his stunningly smooth run into Triple Crown history.
Now, his victory lap begins.
At the headquarters of American horse racing, Churchill Downs' famous twin spires are displaying Zayat Stables' turquoise and gold colors all week to celebrate the first Triple Crown in 37 years. The Kentucky Derby museum quickly updated a display to reflect the historic achievement, and American Pharoah's name was added in gold letters in the paddock with 11 previous champions.
Next Saturday, American Pharoah will take his public parade lap at the track before the Stephen Foster Handicap.
The horse left Belmont and flew back home to a crowd that cheered as he walked toward trainer Bob Baffert's Barn 33. He seemed to drink the attention in as he strolled out of the van and walked around the barn before media and an adoring gathering of camera-clicking fans. His return was shown over the jumbo screen overlooking the storied track.
By then, Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher believes that American Pharoah's achievement will have set in with the public and he hopes they will help the horse celebrate.
''I think (people) are excited now. People get enchanted by a special horse, and there's no question this horse is special.''
Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said the plane ride back was pretty calm for the horse. American Pharoah will be walked for the next few days, per his normal postrace training schedule.
''It was a pretty easy flight,'' Barnes added.
Baffert's barn was recently updated with a plaque reflecting his prized colt's Kentucky Derby win here last month that sparked expectations of ending a generations-long Triple Crown drought. American Pharoah delivered victories of seven and 5 1/2 lengths in the Preakness and Belmont, respectively, igniting a huge sense of relief after decades of disappointment.
After so many years of waiting, plans are still coming together for how Kentucky might ultimately celebrate its new racing king. There was a buzz nonetheless around the Derby museum Sunday, and a huge banner congratulating American Pharoah hung just to the left of the museum door and entrance to the track.
This could be the biggest opportunity for the museum since it opened its doors in 1985.
''We have a lot of things in the works,'' museum spokesman Gavin LaPaille said. ''This is very exciting for us. We didn't have a Triple Crown winner when we opened, so we figured there would be interest and we hope to be a part of that.''
Video of his race was shown all around the museum. On Tuesday and Wednesday, large cards will be available for fans to sign before being given to the horse's team.
''It was exciting,'' said Wally Yocum of Louisville, an eight-month resident who visited the museum with his wife Marilyn and family visiting from New Jersey. ''We saw the banner and said, `this is a good photo (opportunity). There will definitely be a purchase at the gift shop that wouldn't have been made before today.''