American Pharaoh leaves for Ashford on Monday morning
Edited Press Release
On the morning after Triple Crown champion and first Grand Slam winner American Pharoah's triumph in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), his Hall of Fame trainer was still marveling at the colt's accomplishment.
“He came back in great shape. He’s ready to go around again,” said Baffert, who has now won back-to-back Classics after last year's win with Bayern. “He really put on a show yesterday. I knew at the half-mile pole (that he would win big) from the way he was running. The way he was going, he just breaks other horses’ hearts. The good horses do that, they just break other horses’ hearts.
“Yesterday he showed the horse that he is. I know how good he is because I’ve trained some really good ones. I’ve had others who were as fast as he is, but they couldn't sustain it (over an entire season). You'll never see a horse travel and ship like that and win at every track he went to, except for the Travers (G1). His mechanics and his personality are also what set him apart. I'm glad he finally got a track record. He was ready yesterday.”
The Breeders’ Cup Classic was the final race for the Zayat Stable’s homebred son of their homebred Pioneerof the Nile. His breeding rights were sold to Coolmore's Ashford Stud, with Ahmed Zayat retaining an interest.
The entire Zayat family was at the barn on Sunday visiting American Pharoah, who will remain at Keeneland until Monday.
“He's going to Ashford tomorrow morning. I will go with him to see him get settled in," said Baffert, who will be accompanied by his wife, Jill, and son Bode. “It will be sad to say good-bye and walking him this morning was emotional, but I don't feel like I'll be leaving him. Letting him down (from his racing career) will be easy. He’s ‘Mr. Chill.’ We’ll be coming to Ashford to see him.”
After American Pharoah won the Belmont S. (G1), and even after his runner-up finish in the Travers, Baffert brought the colt out so that the large crowd of media and fans assembled could enjoy and “up close and personal” experience with the horse. He did so again Sunday morning.
“This is the best horse I’ve ever had in my training career,” said the Hall of Famer, who notched his 12th Breeders' Cup win Saturday afternoon. “It's been a fantastic year with him. I was crying when he turned for home. I was thinking of my parents (in heaven). 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.”
As the Zayat entourage was leaving the barn Baffert called out to Ahmet Zayat, “Find me another one.”
As for the runners behind American Pharoah, the James Jerkens-trained Effinex was reported to have come out of his second-place Classic finish in fine shape Sunday morning.
The four-year-old son of Mineshaft, who finished 6 1/2 lengths behind American Pharoah and 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Honor Code in the Classic, is scheduled to stay in training next year.
Trainer Shug McGaughey put Classic third-place finisher Honor Code on a van bound for nearby Lanes End Farm Sunday morning.
“Obviously, it’s a void in your stable, but I know he’s going home healthy,” McGaughey said. “He’s going to a great place and he’s going to get great mares. He’s going to be well taken care of.”
Honor Code, who captured back-to-back victories in the Met Mile (G1) and Whitney (G1) this year, lagged in the back of the eight-horse field before closing for third in the Classic.
McGaughey was satisfied Sunday morning that the A.P. Indy four-year-old’s 2015 record is worthy of a year-end Eclipse Award as older male.
“His competition would be Liam’s Map, and he ran against him once and beat him,” McGaughey said.
Incidentally, Liam’s Map joined Honor Code on that trip to Lane’s End Farm and will be taking up stud duties alongside his Eclipse Award rival.
Donegal Racing president Jerry Crawford said Sunday morning that a decision would be made within 10 days on whether Classic fourth-placer Keen Ice will continuing racing pending a deal for his breeding rights. Crawford said negotiations have begun about when and where the Curlin sophomore will begin his stallion career.
In the meantime, Keen Ice has returned to trainer Dale Romans’ Churchill Downs base.
“He’ll get a little break,” Crawford said. “We haven’t made the plan going forward yet. We have had a lot of inquiries about stud plans. We’ll have to sort that out and see if (a buyer) allows us to race him as a four-year-old.
“There aren’t enough accolades for American Pharoah’s performance,” Crawford added. “When I saw American Pharoah come into the paddock, I saw he had gained so much weight since I saw him in the paddock at Saratoga. I thought ‘uh oh.’ And sure enough (he won). Whatever (Team American Pharoah) did, it was the right thing.”
Hard Aces, sixth in the Classic for trainer John Sadler, joined stablemate and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) runner-up Stellar Wind on a flight back to Sadler’s Santa Anita Park base on Sunday.
“Hard Aces ran a good, honest race, but not as good as the champion (American Pharoah),” Sadler said Sunday morning as he waited to board a flight back to Southern California from Lexington’s Blue Grass Field.
“We’re very pleased with both horses; more so with Stellar Wind. She ran a great race, though didn’t have a smooth trip. She might have won if not for that.”
American Pharoah photo courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography