American Pharoah wins Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Favorite American Pharoah captured the 141st Kentucky Derby by a length over Firing Line before a record crowd of 170,513 fans on a sun-kissed afternoon at Churchill Downs. It was the first Derby win for owner Zayat Stables, third for jockey Victor Espinoza and the fourth for trainer Bob Baffert.

Ahmed Zayat knew his luck had to change at some point in the Kentucky Derby.

Zayat had finished second three times and another time had a favorite scratched the week before the first leg of the Triple Crown.

"We've come here with good horses," Zayat said. "We've never come with a special one."

"I didn't know what it would feel like," Zayat said. "I've dreamed about this time but the feeling is even better. What an amazing time."

American Pharoah went off as the 5-2 favorite and it marked the third straight year the favorite has won the Derby but just fifth time since 1980.

The winning time for the 1 1/4 mile race was 2:03.02. American Pharoah, who was trained by Bob Baffert, finished a length ahead of Firing Line with Baffert's Dortmund third.

"We were ready to rumble," Baffert said. "Since their last works, I kept hearing about how good they were and I was hoping it would come true. I felt very confident going in.

"I just don't like people telling me I'm going to win, I'm superstitious."

It was the fourth Derby win for Baffert, and the third Derby win for jockey Victor Espinoza, who also won last year aboard California Chrome. Baffert became the fourth trainer in history to have recorded four Derby wins and into a three-way tie for second-most wins ever with D. Wayne Lukas and Dick Thompson. Ben Jones has a record six Derby victories.

"Those names are legends," Baffert said. "And to be in this position, you know, I never think about stuff like that. Victor and I, we have a lot of history going back. And he won that Derby. And to win this Derby, this is for the Zayats who have suffered so much running these seconds, since Bodemeister and Pioneerof the Nile. So we know what it is to just get completely punched right in the face.

"But today for some reason, I could tell all week long that we had a lot of positive energy. I just felt pretty good all week long."

But it was the first for the 52-year-old Zayat./p>

Zayat, who has spent millions in the thoroughbred racing game in 2005, ran an Egyptian beverage company - Al Ahram Beverages - until he sold it to Heineken for $280 million. He is still involved in several other industries.

But his main focus is horse racing.

And his one big missing race was the Derby. He has 140 horses in training with several trainers and has suffered some heartache in the Derby.

In 2009, Pioneerof the Nile appeared to be on his way to winning the Derby for Zayat until 50-1 shot Mine That Bird snuck up the rail and pulled off the shocker.

Nehro lost to 20-1 shot Animal Kingdom in 2011 and Zayat's son - and racing manager - Justin Zayat said the “toughest” loss was Bodemeister losing to I’ll Have Another in ’12.

But Justin Zayat said that "is what makes this one special."

"I'm going to watch this race over and over every day," said Justin Zayat, who said last week he kept watching the tough losses in the Derby.

"This means so much to us," Justin Zayat said. "It means everything."

Added the elder Zayat: "We've been very close before. I am just honored. This is one special horse. The horse does the talking."

American Pharoah, Firing Line and Dortmund were in the front of the pack for the entire mile and a quarter test over a fast track on a 75-degree day.

The three were side-by-side at the top of the stretch with Firing Line in the middle of the two Baffert horses. American Pharoah was on the outside.

Espinoza had to ride American Pharoah harder than his previous races, but he outran Firing Line in the final furlong to capture the roses.

"This is just an amazing horse," Espinoza said.

Baffert, who has also had a ton of close calls in the Derby said winning the Derby "never gets old," noting this horse "makes me look good."

American Pharoah paid $7.80, $5.80 and $4.20.

Baffert said the plan if to run the winner in the May 16 Preakness Stakes. He will try to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

"We'll think about that later," Zayat said. "But he's a special horse."


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