It’s been announced that US Triple-Crown winner American Pharoah will next head for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. The race takes place on August 29 and will be his last prior to the Breeders’ Cup at the end of October.
After another stunning piece of work at Del Mar, his owner Ahmed Zayat confirmed the colt will head to New York. He is set to fly to Saratoga on August 26. Trainer Bob Baffert confirmed his star’s wellbeing on Sunday, saying: “He always works well, but we wanted to see if he still has that energy level. It was a pretty incredible work, and he's a pretty incredible horse.”
With seven Grade 1 victories to his name, American Pharoah is fast becoming one of ‘American Dirts’ all-time greats. A hard fought victory in the Kentucky Derby was followed by a romp in the Preakness Stakes. This was arguably surpassed when he took the Triple-Crown in stunning fashion, destroying the field in the Belmont Stakes. Some may question the opposition but his strong performances have been backed by the clock.
His latest Grade 1 victory at Monmouth Park in the Haskell Invitational proved to be no more than a training session. In front of a record crowd he led from the off cruising clear before being heavily eased nearing the post.
Bob Baffert trained the sire, Pioneerof the Nile, a Kentucky Derby runner-up in 2009. It comes as no surprise to see that Northern Dancer appears on both sides of the pedigree, though admittedly going back a fair few generations. Both owner and trainer have hinted at their star’s standout quality. “We felt that he had brilliance in him,” said Zayat, “his demeanour, his aura, his conformation, and the way he moved.” Baffert added: “I've never had a horse that moves or travels over the ground like he does.”
His greatest test is likely to come at Keeneland, Kentucky, in the Breeders’ Cup at the end of a long arduous campaign. However, his trainer is sure to be a little nervous taking in the Travers Stakes. The only previous Triple Crown winner to find success in the race was Whirlaway in 1941.
Affirmed did cross the line ahead in the Travers of 1978 having already secured the Triple Crown, but was disqualified and placed second after interference with the runner-up Alydar. Baffert himself has a poor record in the race with just one win in five attempts. “I was looking for a reason not to run in the Travers but he didn’t give me one,” the trainer said. “I feel confident that he’ll run his race. If I saw he was a little flat he wouldn’t be on that plane.”
It’s hard to envisage anything other than another impressive victory for the great horse, assuming he arrives in New York fit and well. It will then be full steam ahead Kentucky for a thrilling season finale, before retiring to his duties as a stallion. He will stand at Ashford Stud, a division of Coolmore, after breeding rights were sold by Zayat.
It is estimated that his stud fee could reach $200,000. He looks set to be a star long after his sensational track exploits are over.