American Pharoah to parade between Del Mar races Sunday
Del Mar has announced that Triple Crown champion American Pharoah will parade before his throngs of fans at Del Mar Sunday. Although the specific time of his appearance is to be determined, officials are looking at a period between races early in the afternoon.
American Pharoah was en route from Saratoga back home to Del Mar Monday, two days after his upset at the hands of Keen Ice in the Travers (G1). Connections are still mulling the colt's future.
Fans obviously hope that the original plan -- aiming for the October 31 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland -- will hold. But since that was widely expected to be American Pharoh's final start in any case, if trainer Bob Baffert isn't convinced he can get him back to peak form by then, the Zayat homebred would retire to stud straightaway.
Although it's too tricky to read the tea leaves (as you can tell from Baffert's extensive post-Travers discussion of American Pharoah), is it perhaps a clue that connections are willing to let Pharoah get up close and personal with his fans again? The Zayat family kindly shared the colt with his fans in the aftermath of the Triple Crown, parading at both Churchill Downs and Santa Anita in June.
But afterward, Baffert declared that the "petting zoo" time was over. American Pharoah recovered from his celebrity schedule, got back into his routine, and geared up for his sensational Haskell Invitational (G1) victory.
To be sure, there are still two months until the Breeders' Cup. Pharoah has enough time to make an appearance, unwind, and crank it back up again.
Yet that "petting zoo" comment has stuck in my mind. If there weren't the retirement talk swirling in the air, would he still parade at Del Mar? I'm probably just overanalyzing (as usual), but even the Del Mar release acknowledges that his appearance may end up being his public "farewell." That would be a case of coming full circle, since Pharoah burst to stardom at the seaside track in last year's Del Mar Futurity (G1), and thereby ending where it all began.
On the other hand, the Del Mar appearance makes sense on its own merits. Pharoah's summering there, but didn't take part in the track's signature race, the Pacific Classic (G1), which was contested only 20 days after the Haskell. Earlier, Baffert had indicated that he'd "bend over backward" for Del Mar. It's logical to do something like this for your summertime base, and the idea had already been in the air.
Fingers crossed that's all there is to it, and that this news has no subtext about whether we'll see him in the Breeders' Cup or not.
To end on that positive note, here's a quote from Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President and CEO Joe Harper:
"We’re tickled that his people want to offer a salute to our loyal fans before they take their remarkable show on the road again."
Photo of American Pharoah working at Del Mar August 23, courtesy of Benoit.