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Impressive gallop sets up American Pharoah for timed workout

In a photo provided by Churchill Downs, American

In a photo provided by Churchill Downs, American Pharoah gallops with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez aboard, Sunday, May 31, 2015, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Credit: AP / Reed Palmer

Looking sharp, as usual.

American Pharoah impressed observers again Sunday morning at Churchill Downs in his 1 1/2-mile gallop under exercise rider Georgie Alvarez on a fast main track. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner moved effortlessly, with his neck bowed and his ears pricked, with his unusually long stride.

Owner Ahmed Zayat's superstar appeared relaxed six days before he will go for thoroughbred racing's ultimate prize, the Triple Crown trophy, in the 147th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who arrived Saturday night from California, said, "He looks very healthy and he's happy."

American Pharoah is scheduled to leave Louisville's Standiford International Airport at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday on a special transport plane that is expected to arrive at Islip's MacArthur Airport at approximately 12:45 p.m. The colt and his entourage are expected to reach Belmont early that afternoon.

It's the fourth time that Baffert, 62, will try to sweep the classics, having finished second in the Belmont with Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998) and eighth with War Emblem (2002).

"I'm more relaxed and I've gotten older, so I've mellowed out a lot," he said. "I feel pretty confident the way this horse is coming into it, how he needs to train."

Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, on the stable pony Smokey, accompanied Alvarez and American Pharoah to the track, which they entered near the gap about 100 yards from Baffert's Barn 33. Barnes, 55, grew up in Santa Rosa, California, northeast of San Francisco, and followed the 49ers. Newsday asked Barnes last week to compare Pharoah's running style to a football player's, and he named two former stars, the 49ers' Roger Craig and the Cowboys' Tony Dorsett, versatile halfbacks with breakaway speed.

The gallop set up American Pharoah for Monday morning's half-mile timed workout, his final serious training move before the big race. Jockey Martin Garcia, his regular workout partner, is in from California.

"I don't sleep well the night before a work," Baffert said. "Tomorrow morning, I'll be a little nervous, hoping that it's going to go as planned. As long as he's enjoying what he's doing, that's what I want to see. Martin knows what we're doing."

Garcia has been working American Pharoah since last summer. He also traveled to Churchill last week to breeze him 4 furlongs in 48 seconds Tuesday.

Garcia rode him in his only defeat, in his career debut last Aug. 9 at Del Mar. He lost the mount to Victor Espinoza because Garcia had committed to another horse before Baffert decided to enter Pharoah in the Del Mar Futurity.

"I feel pretty good that the horse is doing this well, but he has to break clean," Baffert said. "My son Bode [age 10] and I were talking about Larry Collmus calling the race. Bode goes, 'All I know is I hope he says, "And they're off in the Belmont and American Pharoah breaks beautifully." ' "

Notes & quotes: Belmont contender Keen Ice, who ran seventh in the Derby, jogged two miles at Churchill, where he is scheduled to work out Tuesday. The colt, trained by Dale Romans, is booked on the same flight as American Pharoah . . . A New York Racing Association release reiterated that no general admission tickets will be sold at the racetrack on Belmont day. They cost $15, do not include a seat, and are available exclusively through Ticketmaster.

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