American Pharoah's Historical Campaign Creates Personal Memories
by LAURA PUGH
After weeks of waiting, listening with our ears wide open, sitting on the edge of our seats, the hope has now officially become a reality as today is Travers Day when American Pharoah will march to post!
Nobody needs to tell me how electric the atmosphere will be, after having been to two of his starts, I can say with confidence that both were otherworldly. The first time I watched this monster race in person was in the muddy monsoon that was the Preakness Stakes. The second I saw him glide across the wire, an effortless winner, I knew that he would be a Triple Crown winner. The second time was the Haskell Invitational. The scene was completely different, sunny and warm, with a gently breeze. The cheers went up as soon as American Pharoah entered the track and didn’t subside until well after the race had won. The horse is a rock star, and his ever growing fan base is hoping he will be able to rock the stands at Saratoga as he has done in his last four starts.
Despite his edge in raw ability and numbers, American Pharoah still could face quite a challenge. Texas Red, a horse he beat while they were running as juveniles, has resurfaced looking for a rematch. That rival won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and has since come back to win the Jim Dandy Stakes, a race run as a local prep for the Travers. That race gives Texas Red a race over the track, which has been crucial in recent years. Four of the last five editions of the Travers have been won by horses with experience over the oval, in their previous race. VE Day won the Curlin Stakes, Will Take Charge was as fast closing second in the Jim Dandy, and both Alpha and Stay Thirsty won the Jim Dandy, before going on to take the Travers in their respective years.
This isn’t to say horses never win the Travers if they race over it before the big day, but it certainly does make the task of winning much more difficult. The last sole winner with no prior Saratoga experience was Colonel John, who won his running by the length of the hairs on his nose. Another “jinx” to overcome is the Monmouth to Saratoga jinx. Only three others have taken the Haskell Invitational and gone on to win and the last was, ironically, Point Given trained by Bob Baffert.
Like in most of his races this year, American Pharoah enters the Travers with the intent to buck a bucket load of historical jinxes, but that hasn’t stopped him before. He broke the curse of the dreaded 18 post when he won the Kentucky Derby. He then sprinted away from the cursed one hole in the Preakness, and then broke the biggest curse of them all by being the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, while doing so with no prior races over the Belmont strip.
This year, American Pharoah has proven history means absolutely nothing to him, except for the history he creates himself. Here is to hoping he makes his own history once again, at one of the most historical tracks in America, Saratoga.