American Pharoah on cruise control in first post-Haskell work
If anyone was on the lookout for signs of tiredness, wear and tear, or a lack of enthusiasm from American Pharoah, that hypothetical anyone wouldn't have seen anything of the sort. In his first work back from the August 2 Haskell Invitational (G1), the Triple Crown champion was his usual self at Del Mar on Sunday.
Under regular work rider Martin Garcia, American Pharoah settled into his fluent, rhythmical stride and reeled off fractions of :12.40, :24.60 and :35.80. The Bob Baffert star was officially credited with a half-mile move in :47.60, breezing, but he continued to roll through five furlongs in :59.80 and galloped out a sixth panel in 1:13.60.
As you can see in the Benoit Photo, Pharoah's ears are up, like antennae picking up all the signals in the atmosphere.
"It went super good,” Garcia told Del Mar publicity. “Bob just told me to work him like we usually do and make sure we get a little bit out of it. He was just cruising. It’s like he’s still getting better and better. This horse is unbelievable.”
Baffert was understandably pleased with the drill, which took place during the 7:45-7:55 a.m. (PDT) training time dedicated exclusively to "Triple Crown winners" (sic) and those prepping for Saturday's Pacific Classic (G1).
“He went nice; like he always does,” Baffert said. “I think this empty track today allowed him to relax some. When he’s got horses all around him, he gets keyed up.”
Baffert didn't offer any confirmation about where the Zayat homebred would race next. Although Ahmed Zayat has expressed his preference for the August 29 Travers (G1) at Saratoga, the official decision is still pending, with the Hall of Fame trainer waiting to see how Pharoah looks in the build-up.
At the moment, the Triple Crown champ looks pretty good, to use a bit of understatement.
Update: more Baffert quotes were released in Del Mar's afternoon stable notes by Hank Wesch.
I think he’s doing fine. I’m always checking with his riders – George (Alvarez), Manny (Avila) who gets on him on his (George’s) day off, Martin (Garcia) and asking if they feel anything different; asking if he’s done anything that is a change. But all the reports are good. Everything they’ve said so far has been positive. Actually, it’s amazing how this horse has held his form for so long.
The ride (with the horse) has been good, but I can feel the pressure. I’ve got a lot of responsibility with him – to the racing industry, to everyone. I’ve got to make sure he’s 100%. I’ve got to focus on the horse from here on out, make sure everything is right for him.
Today (in his work) he looked like the ‘Pharoah’ we know. His ears were up and forward, he was looking around checking things out; doing it easy. It’s what we want to see.
I’ll work him again next week. We’ll see when. Then we’ll probably know what we’re going to do next.
Might Pharoah parade before the Del Mar fans on Pacific Classic Day on Saturday?
If I was sure that we weren’t going to the Travers, then it would be a no-brainer. But when you put them in front of a crowd it can take something out of them. I’m just not sure about that yet.