CRAWFORD | American Pharoah to head to retirement home on Monday
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — There had been some talk that American Pharoah might yet get one more curtain call.
Owner Ahmed Zayat spoke of sending the champion out “in a way that is appropriate of how he was embraced by the fans and the sport.”
The New York Times reported that trainer Bob Baffert might retain custody of the prized colt a little while longer. And the notion of a farewell day at Churchill Downs was floated.
That could still happen, but the ride for Baffert and Zayat ends Monday. Baffert told reporters at his Keeneland barn Sunday that American Pharoah will relocate to his new home at Coolmore Ashford Stud outside Versailles on Monday. Baffert will go over with him, along with his wife, Jill, and son Bode.
“He's going to Ashford tomorrow morning,” Baffert said. “I will go with him to see him get settled in. It will be sad to say goodbye, and walking him this morning was emotional.”
Zayat was particularly emotional. Baffert said it probably won’t hit him until he goes back to California and sees his empty stall.
It seems a strange thing, of course. The colt could go on training and racing.
“He came back in great shape. He’s ready to go around again,” Baffert said.
He’s fit. He thrives on the races. But such is the sport — and not just the sport, really, but society — that as soon as you develop a special horse, thoughts immediately race ahead to, what else? Making more special horses.
That’s why recruiting is more popular than the games. It’s why nothing can happen without the immediate question being asked: What’s next?
I imagine that will be an especially difficult question for Baffert. What do you do after having the horse of a lifetime with so much lifetime left (hopefully)?
Baffert yelled to Zayat as he left, “Find me another one.”
“As a trainer, you have to put Pharoah in the rear-view mirror and keep going on,” Baffert said. “But they all have a special place in our hearts. These really good horses leave a piece of them with you.”
Baffert talked about the experience of training American Pharoah, and conceded that he probably did a better job of training him than he would have as a younger man. But there were things Pharoah did that you can’t train, his conformation, his temperament.
“This is the best horse I’ve ever had in my training career,” Baffert said. “It's been a fantastic year with him. I was crying when he turned for home. I was thinking of my parents (who passed away in recent years). This horse has an angel on his back. He is a gift from God. This guy had the brilliance, the speed and the personality. He was the perfect racehorse.”
Now he’s off to try to produce more. But history tells us, that’s not so easy. It’s best to savor what he’s done. It may not come around again for a while.
Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.