LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CBSNewYork/AP) — American Pharoah looked strong and fresh in his first exercise as a Triple Crown champion before meeting a veterinarian who has seen six of his brethren.
After several days of walking around Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Barn 33, the bay colt returned to the dirt Friday morning for a clockwise jog before reporters and adoring fans as the sun rose over Churchill Downs.
Like many moments throughout his triumphant run this spring, American Pharoah was calm after the work.
“He still looks like the picture of health,” Baffert said of the horse while standing in front of plaques marking his achievement. “He’s starting to get better, and that shows what he’s made of. He’s still happy and is enjoying the track.”
American Pharoah is still basking in the afterglow of his achievement.
After getting his public bath before a group of camera-clicking spectators, he posed for pictures with fans young and old and relished the gentle pats and kisses on his cheek.
The horse’s laid-back demeanor through all the oohs and ahhs certainly impressed Lexington veterinarian William McGee, 98, who recalls seeing or treating at least six Triple Crown champions in his career.
American Pharoah calmly walked over to McGee’s wheelchair and cozied up to him for a pat on the head that confirmed McGee’s belief in how special he is.
“His temperament is outstanding,” McGee said. “Most horses just won’t stand for the closeness of people as he did. I look for the best from him.”
The public will get its chance to congratulate horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner Saturday night as American Pharoah parades around the famed track before his connections receive gold and silver trophies for last month’s Kentucky Derby victory.
His name has already been added in gold letters to a ring of fame with previous Triple Crown champions in the paddock area, and he wore a Triple Crown blanket before being led back to his stall.
A resident at Baffert’s barn since late April, American Pharoah will leave Louisville June 18 to return to California to prepare for his next phase of competition.
Though the trainer said the horse will definitely compete in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in Lexington this fall, his summer schedule is undecided.
“The goal is to bring him back healthy,” said Baffert, joking that he wants to put the champion “in bubble wrap” to protect him.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I just want to see how he responds.”
If Friday’s brief jog around Churchill Downs offered any clues, American Pharoah seemed to be refreshed from the 1½-mile Belmont Stakes that he won by 5½ lengths. He seemed to glide while going around the outside of the main track in the opposite direction of many horses and looked as if he could’ve gone farther if asked.
That will come in time for the champion, who just needed to stretch his legs again.
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