CRAWFORD | What's next for American Pharoah? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | What's next for American Pharoah?

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — So you win a Triple Crown — what's next? It's a question no one has had to answer, really, for 37 years. The last time someone had to draw up that plan, it was a different world.

These days, with stud values being what they are, racing is only a component of the show. With American Pharoah, the future awaits. Owner Ahmed Zayat has sold his breeding fees to Coolmore Ashford Stud outside Lexington, Ky.

But Zayat held onto the racing rights to the champion colt, through the end of his 3-year-old season. And Zayat has given every indication that he plans to use them. Trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday that the colt could run as many as three more races, but noted that there is no plan beyond shooting for the ideal ending — a run in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland on Oct. 31, if all goes well.

CRAWFORD | A day later, Baffert still basking the glow of Pharoah's crown

Zayat feels a responsibility to the game. It's why he spreads his various thoroughbred assets among a number of trainers.

“I take this responsibility very seriously,” he said Sunday. “With this horse, we owe it to the sport to continue properly, and as often as we possibly can.”

Baffert said he remembered watching Secretariat win the Triple Crown, and being excited about it. Then he watched him two races later, in the Grade 2 Whitney Handicap, and he was beaten by a horse named Onion.

“Onion?” Baffert said recently. “I'd never heard of Onion. And after that, I kind of lost interest.”

Secretariat's workout leading into the race had been flat, and it later was revealed that he had a low-grade fever on raceday, but owners thought he could win anyway.

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Baffert doesn't want people to lose interest in American Pharoah, and he doesn't want to repeat the mistake of running a horse who isn't at his best.

“I think when he runs, he's going to have a huge following,” Baffert said. “People will come to watch him run. I just want to make sure, you know, there's not an Onion out there waiting for me. I want to make sure he's ready to roll and sharp.”

When will that be? Baffert said the horse will stay in training. There will be no prolonged vacation. After a week or so at Churchill Downs, he likely will return to California, where Baffert is based. But first, American Pharoah will return to the Churchill Downs home stretch on Saturday to be seen by fans on Stephen Foster Day.

“We have horses at Churchill. We're stabled there. We'll share him with the people there in Louisville. You know, Kentucky is horse country, and he has a lot of fans now,” Baffert said. “Then he'll go to California. And California, we're kind of on an island out there. . . . But Jill Jill (Baffert's wife) wants him to go home (to California), because she wants to see him.”

The traditional route for American Pharoah's next start would have him in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on Aug. 2, or the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Springs on Aug. 1. Both of those are 3-year-old races. It's hard to see, given Baffert's California-based operation and the colt's national appeal, the horse running three races without one on the West coast. In that event, The Pacific Classic at Del Mar might be the first time American Pharoah goes up against older horses. But there are other possibilities.

"I just don't know," Baffert said. "I'll have to sit down with Mr. Zayat and we'll figure out a plan. But it will all be based on what's best for the horse."

And, of course, Keeneland, not far from where American Pharoah will be retired to stud, would be an ideal final stop in his racing career.

But all that, Baffert says, still depends on the horse. He came back from his Triple Crown run remarkably well.

“I could run him back in three weeks,” Baffert quipped, but he won't. “He was quiet (Sunday morning), but for what he's gone through, he's pretty tough. He'll get his weight back really quick.”

American Pharoah has won seven straight races, and four straight Grade I stakes races.

After Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, he won the Jim Dandy, and then the Travers, before losing to Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew in the Marlboro Cup at Belmont. He would lose three more races, before finishing his career with six straight Grade I wins, and an exhibition race win, under Laffit Pincay Jr.

Different times. The racing window for American Pharoah is short. But he does have a racing window, and that's important for the game, and crucial, in Baffert's eyes, to be handled correctly.

“We'll make sure that he's hitting on all cylinders. I want to make sure that when I do run him, it's very important for him to be at his best. . . . I just want to make sure fans see the real Pharoah.

“The way he moves is just, you just can't stay with him. He's just too quick. He's fast, and he just gets out there and just wants to dominate. In the Derby, we should've let him roll and he just would've dominated, but we were holding him back, and he really didn't like running like that. He just wants to get out there and do his thing, and dominate. Let me go. I'll go however fast you want me to go early, but I'm still going to bring it at the end, like he did at the Preakness. It takes a really special, talented horse to do that.”

And for a short while longer, at least, he'll get to keep doing it.

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