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Homeracing

Justin Zayat on American Pharoah's Future & Legacy

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TwinSpires Staff

August 7th, 2015

by LAURA PUGH (Jamie Newell photo)

Forget wanting to know who will win the Whitney Stakes or next year’s Kentucky Derby, the hottest question in racing right now is where will Triple Crown champion American Pharoah race next?

The quest to be the first with an answer sent the Turf media into a frenzy this week as everyone attempted to twist owner Ahmed Zayat’s words on At the Races with Steve Byk into a commitment to run in the Travers Stakes on August 28 at Saratoga Race Course.

But no such commitment exists. Zayat has only said that he would like to see American Pharoah in the Travers but that Racing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has the final say.

“It all happened when my dad went on the Steve Byk show where he was talking about his desires,” said Zayat Stables Racing Manager Justin Zayat. “I mean, he wants to run in the Travers—not that the horse was officially running in the Travers.”

Justin Zayat mentioned the Pacific Classic on August 22 at Del Mar and a new race at Monmouth as potential other targets (see below for all audio from Laura's interview with Justin).

“The Travers is obviously the big one on the radar and way out there is the Pacific Classic, which is the least of the possibilities,” Justin Zayat said. “Monmouth themselves offered to write us a race; whenever we’re ready to race, just tell them.”

Baffert has completed the Haskell-Travers double before, completing the sweep in 2001 with eventual Horse of the Year Point Given. The following year dual classic winner War Emblem won the Haskell but was off the board as the favorite in the Pacific Classic. Still, Baffert’s record in the Travers (Last year, Haskell winner Bayern finished last in the Travers) has been mentioned as  a reason American Pharoah would not contest that race.

“If I know Bob Baffert, that is not a reason to not run in the [Travers],” Justin Zayat said. “He was the last one to do the sweep of the Haskell and Travers; if anyone is going to be able to do it again, it’s Bob.”

Even with all the short-term possibilities, the Zayats have the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31 at Keeneland Race Course as the long-term goal to complete their champion’s career.

“I want people to leave with the thought of, ‘Wow, American Pharoah actually brought back the Sport of Kings,” Justin Zayat said. “I want people my age [23] to be like, ‘This is why I started to watch horse racing.’ That’s the kind of legacy I want him to leave.”

That legacy is certainly building considering American Pharoah has attracted record crowds at three of his last four races, including 60,900 for the Haskell on August 2 at Monmouth Park. Only six other race days have attracted more than 60,000 fans this century in horse racing: Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Preakness, Belmont, Arkansas Derby, and Breeders’ Cup.

And anticipation for his next race has already reached a fevered pitch. American Pharoah is a rock star and he and his connections know it.

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