American Pharaoh Wins Exciting Kentucky Derby

AP Photo
The Associated Press

A Mexican jockey won the Kentucky Derby riding an American horse with an Egyptian name.

American Pharaoh won the 141st Kentucky Derby on Saturday afternoon in front of 170,513 screaming fans under sunny skies at Churchill Downs. Dortmund and Firing Line traded the lead early on before American Pharaoh stepped on the gas to take a slight lead coming in wide on the outside off the turn. Dortmund faded slightly down the homestretch, forcing the favorite to overpower the charge of Firing Line for the victory. The victor finished about a length ahead of his nearest competitor.

The winner finished in a time of 2:03.02, making the fastest two-minutes in sports a few ticks slower than usual. Secretariat owns the record in the race for three-year-old thoroughbreds 1:59 2/5 seconds in 1973. Firing Line placed and pace-setter Dortmund showed. Carpe Diem, entering with odds of 7-1, finished a disappointing tenth.

The win gave the silver-haired Bob Baffert his fourth triumph at the Kentucky Derby. “It never gets old,” Baffert reflected on NBC post race. Ahmed Zayat, the Egyptian-American owner, called himself “blessed” after the victory.

“I feel like the luckiest Mexican on Earth,” rider Victor Espinoza told NBC on horseback after the win. “Growing up, I wanted to be successful.” The win in the Kentucky Derby makes it two-in-a-row for Espinoza, who jockeyed California Chrome to victory at Churchill Downs last year. The 5-2 favorite’s win immediately fuels talk, a la the chatter that followed California Chrome last spring, of American Pharaoh chances to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Espinoza, in winning his third Derby and second in a row at Churchill Downs, reflected: “I’m just a lucky Mexican.” He looks for more such luck at the Preakness in two weeks and the Belmont Stakes on June 6.