American Pharoah ready for Haskell bid
The Jersey Shore figures to be rocking on Sunday as American Pharoah makes his eagerly awaited return in the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park.
The sublime colt, arguably the best American three-year-old to come along since the 1970s, put the finishing touches on his Haskell preparations Tuesday morning, breezing a half-mile in :48.80 at Del Mar.
Clockers timed the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile in splits of :12:60, :25.20 and :37, and American Pharoah galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 and six furlongs in 1:14.40.
“He went smooth. He’s ready,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. “We just need a good ship.”
American Pharoah recorded his third workout in 10 days, posting a pair of six-furlong “bullet” moves at Del Mar prior to Tuesday’s breeze, the 15th fastest of 44 workers at the distance. He’ll ship to Monmouth Park on Wednesday morning.
“I’m on the Pharoah tour now,” Baffert said. “My job is just to keep him in form; keep him happy. I need to make sure he’s ready for anything they throw at him. That’s it now – just keep him healthy and happy.”
Sunday will be an occasion many didn’t would happen after American Pharoah snapped a 37-year Triple Crown drought in the June 6 Belmont Stakes. The Triple Crown made his stud value so substantial, much greater than any earnings he could accrue on track, leading to plenty of retirement speculation given the possibility of injury or a loss in value from potential future losses.
Owner Ahmed Zayat proved to be the ultimate sportsman, deciding to keep American Pharoah in training for the rest of the year. He probably could’ve received extra compensation not to risk it from Coolmore, who secured his breeding rights after this year, but Thoroughbred racing fans are the beneficiary instead of the breeding industry.
American Pharoah is a superstar and Sunday promises to be very exciting indeed.
Expected to face the likely 1-9 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell are Competitive Edge, Keen Ice, Mr. Jordan, Tektaon, Top Clearance and War Story.
There is no doubt surrounding American Pharoah’s legacy – he will be remembered as a great horse by all but the most obtuse Thoroughbred racing fans.
Named champion two-year-old male of 2014, the Kentucky-bred has won seven straight graded stakes races since dropping his career debut and it’s easy to envision American Pharoah winning out the rest of the way, capped by Breeders’ Cup Classic glory at Keeneland in late October.
But there’s no reason to try to prop up American Pharoah with misleading information like raw times. Case in point is a tweet I saw this morning for a column in the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary by Heidi Carpenter:
The column highlights “how great his Triple Crown-winning Belmont Stakes run really was” using the raw times for his fractional splits and final time. There is no mention of whether the track was playing fast at Belmont Park that afternoon.
His 5 ½-length victory was spectacular to say the least, a performance we’ll never forget, and ranks as the sixth fastest of 104 runnings at the 1 ½-mile distance. He ran faster than every previous Triple Crown victor except Secretariat, who established a new world record in 1973.
But raw times don’t define a horse’s greatness – a perfect example is this year’s Preakness Stakes.
American Pharoah captured the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in similar fashion, wowing onlookers with amazing athleticism as he thoroughly dominated the competition, winning with seemingly plenty in reserve. But he needed 1:58.46 to complete his seven-length thrashing in the slop at Pimlico, the slowest Preakness since 1950.
The Preakness final time doesn’t undermine American Pharoah’s accomplishments - a torrential storm minutes before the race negatively affected how fast the track was playing. It just illustrates the fallacy of using raw times to compare horses from one generation to the next.
Photo of American Pharoah working under Martin Garcia on July 28 courtesy of Benoit Photos