An 18,000 person crowd had eyes for none other than the Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah, on Saturday afternoon at Saratoga. After a grueling spring tour that won him the coveted Triple Crown, Pharoah came back and handily won the Haskell Invitational in July and started the Travers Stakes at 5:45 p.m. yesterday. Another victory was not to be, though, as a hard driving Keen Ice prevailed in a memorable stretch battle.
American Pharoah broke alertly and was sent to the lead as he has been throughout his career, but experienced more pressure from Frosted, who finished a game second to AP in the Belmont. Frosted never let up the pressure and both jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert commented after the race that they knew the bay colt by Pioneerofthenile was in trouble by the 1/2 mile pole.
After the race, owner Ahmed Zayat commented that there was a good chance the 3-year-old colt could be retired instead of eyeing the Breeders Cup Classic that the fans have been anticipating. Regardless of the end decision, we have a lot of respect for Ahmed for wanting to do right by his horse who has fought tooth and nail during his career.
Many are speculating that the intensity of travel and little time in between races may have contributed to a less than full tank for American Pharoah, but he showed his grit and heart in a stretch battle that will go down as one of the most memorable. Whirlaway remains the only Triple Crown winner to continue on to win the Travers — they don’t call this track the “Graveyard of Champions” for nothing!
We’ll be following the connections of American Pharoah as they determine their next step, but whatever their decision may be we know we have witnessed one of the truly great athletes the sport has seen. Our hats are off to you, Pharoah, and also to Keen Ice, who still ran his race and proved to be the best of the day yesterday.