Pharoah should have one more run
American Pharoah’s shock defeat in the Travers Stakes has raised the prospect of the Triple Crown winner not being seen on a racetrack again, but it would be hasty to send him straight into retirement.
After being caught close home by Keen Ice at Saratoga last weekend, owner Ahmed Zayat revealed that his ‘gut feeling’ was to retire the three-year-old.
The colt’s defeat in the race saw his odds in the betting for the Breeders’ Cup Classic pushed out, but there’s every reason to think American Pharoah can be brought back to his best at Keeneland in two months’ time.
Certainly, trainer Bob Baffert is in no rush to call time on American Pharoah’s racing career. He is confident that the horse will run again and felt he was not suffering too much in the wake of his first defeat since his juvenile debut.
There was plenty going against him in the Travers Stakes, perhaps not least the supposed curse of Saratoga being ‘The Graveyard of Champions’ where the likes of Man O’ War, Gallant Fox and Secretariat all came unstuck during their illustrious careers.
The race definitely didn’t go to plan for American Pharoah as he was harassed throughout by Frosted, who was being ridden by late substitute jockey Jose Lezcano rather than Joel Rosario. Of course, there’s no divine right for American Pharoah to be allowed an uncontested lead at the front, but getting involved in a duel so early in the race paved the way for Keen Ice to swoop late.
What has to be admired about American Pharoah are the guts he showed coming off the home turn into the stretch to get back in front after briefly being headed by Frosted. Lesser horses would certainly have thrown in the towel at that point, but American Pharoah came back for more until he was collared by Keen Ice.
It could also be worth pointing out that Keen Ice was ridden by Javier Castellano for the first time and that could have helped his chances. Keen Ice had previously been well beaten by American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes before getting closer when runner-up in the Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park at the start of August.
Though both American Pharoah and Keen Ice only had three weeks to recover from that race, the way the Travers was run certainly favoured the latter.
Come the Breeders’ Cup, though, it’s not hard to anticipate American Pharoah reasserting his dominance over Keen Ice.
He showed when winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Haskell that he doesn’t have to be right on the front end of the pace and can sit just in behind the leaders. That will certainly aid his cause if there is the potential for a battle for the early lead.
There is also plenty of time for Baffert to freshen the horse up for Keeneland and a little break could be just what American Pharoah needs right now.
From a breeding point of view, there’s no major reason to run American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Coolmore already have a Triple Crown winner on their hands, so a Breeders’ Cup success isn’t going to add much more to his value.
But, from a sporting point of view, it would be tremendous to see American Pharoah given one more race and the chance to show his Travers defeat was a one-off.