American Pharoah and Saratoga

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D.S. Williamson

July 17th, 2015

The Saratoga Summer Meet kicks off on July 24. That gives horseplayers a good week before having to decide what percentage of their bankroll to put towards the top East Coast meet of the year. More importantly, this Saratoga meet could give horse racing a much needed boost as a viable sport in the United States.
The decline of the Sport of Kings has been well-documented. Although it's popularity has never waned with horseplayers, we look at racing forms on a weekly if not a daily basis, there's no doubt that its popularity among horse racing fans has taken a backseat to other summer events like golf (aren't you interested to see if Jordan Spieth can win The Open Championship and his third major in a row this weekend?), soccer (the U.S. has a great shot at winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup) and, like every summer, baseball. But this year, we've got a Triple Crown winner who could be going for a sweep of the Top 5 Three-Year-Old Races Of the Year. American Pharoah is already on track to run in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on Sunday, Aug. 2. If trainer Bob Baffert doesn't think that 27 days is too short of a turnaround for horse racing's newest star, the Travers Stakes on Aug. 29 is a real possibility. Even though American Pharoah became horse racing's twelfth Triple Crown winner, he could become horse racing's first Quintuple Crown winner by taking home the trophies for the Haskell and the Midsummer Derby at Saratoga.

If marketed right, that could be the thing that puts thoroughbred racing back on the map. American Pharoah's possible presence in the Travers means that he'd once again face his top rivals in the three-year-old division. Let's not kid ourselves. Todd Pletcher would like nothing more than to take down Pharoah with Materiality or Carpe Diem in the Travers. Plus, who knows what three-year-old could develop in one of the in between races from the Belmont to the Travers. Nobody knew who Tiznow was in 2000 until after they had run the Belmont Stakes. He won the Affirmed Handicap and then finished second in the Pacific Classic before beating Giant's Causeway in he Breeders Cup Classic. Will Take Charge turned into a top racehorse by winning the Midsummer Derby for trainer D. Wayne Lukas two years ago while not doing much in any of the Triple Crown Races. Pletcher won the 2005 Travers Stakes with Flower Alley who finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness and Belmont.

American Pharoah and a Pletcher or a Lukas up and coming three-year-old in the Travers, is on top of the excellent racing that horseplayers and horse racing fans should expect from the Saratoga Summer Meet. Saratoga's the oldest race track in America. It's one of the most important in the sense that it offers the prestige that's often reserved for single events in the United States, the Triple Crown Races, or an event like the Breeders Cup. That's what makes Saratoga different. It's a meet of races more akin to Royal Ascot. Adding a Triple Crown winner and what is developing into one of the great trainer rivalries in the thoroughbred racing history between Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, could bring horse racing back and make it a viable way to spend time and money in the minds of Americans again.