Post-race interview w/ American Pharoah's connections
Post-race interview with the connections of
THE MODERATOR: I really appreciate the connections of American Pharaoh joining us.
Bob, I'd like to start with you. If you could take us through the race and tell us how you saw it.
BOB BAFFERT: I think Pharaoh tried really hard. I could tell down the back side he was struggling a little bit. I could tell by Victor's body language he wasn't really giving it -- he didn't have the power that he usually has. But we saw the last 3/8 was just guts, guts and glory.
After he finally shook Frosted off, I really thought, well, maybe there's a chance he's going to -- he could tell he was empty. He just fought back valiantly, and he just -- it wasn't his day today. There's really -- you know, you really don't know. We gambled. We brought him up here. So he showed us all signs that he was ready to go, and he just -- but you really don't know until they actually run.
I had heard Victor's comments, and he just said he wasn't really -- he didn't feel the power he usually feels on him. But he still -- it's amazing. We knew we're doing the impossible to just go back and forth and back and forth. So it's sort of sad to see him get beat. When you see him get beat, I feel bad for him.
There's nothing different Victor could have done. He rode a good race. You get beat. Not much to say about it.
THE MODERATOR: Ahmed Zayat, plenty of great horses have gotten beat here at Saratoga. Your impressions of this race and if you could just share what this means for American Pharaoh moving forward.
AHMED ZAYAT: So I have not uttered a word, either to my family or to Bob. We have not even -- we have not spoken to anybody. My feelings is as follows.
Obviously, I'm extremely proud of American Pharaoh. American Pharaoh ran his race. He put a very brave run, but it wasn't good enough. We are very accustomed of him running incredibly good. It doesn't matter what surface, what track, what distance.
I've always felt that I have a huge fiduciary responsibility since we won the Triple Crown. What do I do with this horse? What is the right moves? And I've always trusted my trainer, and I will always trust my trainer. I would not have changed anything.
The horse was showing us all signs of happiness, health, energy -- everything you can think of. I was very confident here, maybe 100 times more than I was at Monmouth. Even they call it the graveyard, and I wasn't concerned about that. He won the distance. The track surface doesn't bother him. But now I have a huge responsibility.
As I told you, I haven't spoke to my family and Bob, but you start questioning yourself. Have I pushed the envelope too much? I swear to God, I really wanted it for the sport, and my doing it was absolutely -- and I shouldn't be apologetic -- of any financial gain or any nonsense like that. I'm a fan. I love this horse. He was happy, and he's special, and he is, again, the Triple Crown winner.
But then you have to comment to yourself, okay, is the show over? Is it the time? I looked at Joanna, and this is the only word I told my family going down the escalator. It's the first time they heard from me. I said, my gut feeling said time to go out on a high note.
I haven't spoke to Bob. I don't know how Bob feels. Bob, I trust, not just as a trainer, but as somebody I really care because I know he cares about his horses.
My gut feeling right now, without being outspoken, is to retire. It's to say we had a Triple Crown champion. I feel a huge responsibility. I don't think you guys understand, and I pushed so hard. I hope I didn't push Bob because I know Bob is not the person to be pushed.
Bob let the horse tell us. And we were day on, day off because we honestly genuinely wanted the horse to tip us. The horse could not have been better. He gained weight. His demeanor -- I keep repeating myself. So we came here because of what we've seen on Friday. 15,000 people, this is what it is all about, this game. If owners are going to just come and say, don't risk it, you can't. We have to do what we have to do.
So when I'm telling you I'm second guessing myself, it's because now, if the horse is tailing off -- and I need to speak to Victor -- and he's not the Pharaoh we are used to, even though he fought hard, then I have a responsibility for my horse, and I have to come, as I told you, now say it was unbelievable run. He made so much happy my family and Bob's family and everybody in this sport, but my gut feeling say, you know, maybe it's time to really be on Pharaoh's schedule, and he told us today he wasn't the Pharaoh we know.
THE MODERATOR: Victor, if we could get one quick comment from you. Just tell us about down the back side and what you were feeling from Pharaoh today.
VICTOR ESPINOZA: He was not the same like I've always been riding him before. He was good going to the gate. I noticed something that I never saw. He was doing really, really good. I was just a little bit concerned at that point because he never had like -- not even just a tiny bit of sweat before to the gate. Today he was a little bit sweaty to go in there.
He bumped out of there nice. I put him right in the lead. The pace, it was not too fast. It was good. I feel like from the 5/8 pole, his energy level, it was not the same like before. He was not really like strong like he used to. He was up around but not quick enough.
I noticed the other horse that was next to me, I was trying to like open it up and not let them get close to me, and he just stayed in the same pace. Just a little bit by the 3/8, the other jockey -- I don't even know who rode that horse, the one who was next to me.
But as he was getting to the turn, the other horse, he kind of like put his chest right in my hips on the horse. He hit it pretty hard then. My concern, he kind of lost his stride in there. From that point all the way to the turn, he probably hit me like six or seven times.
And I was still like trying to open it up. I was turning for home. He was trying so hard, American Pharaoh, that I opened it up two, three lengths, but I feel like it was not quick enough to get to the wire when the other horse was coming in on the outside.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Victor.
Mr. Zayat, just one last question. You're talking about your gut feeling and your initial reactions after the race. But in terms of anything official, sort of what's the time line, and what do you do from here? I'm not trying to put you on the spot. I just want to clarify that you weren't making any sort of announcement. You're going to regroup and talk.
AHMED ZAYAT: Listen, I'm a big boy, I can make the announcement. This is a teamwork. This is the man who lives with him 24/7, and he had him, and he trusted him. Jim -- we need to speak to Jimmy. We need to speak to his rider. I need to understand more. I didn't hear the stuff about being bumped a zillion times. I need to speak to Justin. Obviously, I need to speak to my wife. We are family.
We're going to sit and think it over. My gut -- I'm an entrepreneur. I've made all my decisions in my life being an entrepreneur, being a gut man. So my gut's saying, if the horse showed me that he tailed off, he's not the Pharaoh I know, then there's no question in my mind that the right thing is to retire him. He doesn't owe me nor anybody anything. I have to worry about him. That's how it's going to be.
Now I have to go and check, did he bled? Did he displace? There's a zillion things that can happen. I don't want to speculate. I need to sit and speak to Victor. We're flying back to California. We have four hours to talk about it, and I guarantee you we'll be celebrating.
BOB BAFFERT: It's going to be a long flight.
AHMED ZAYAT: No, no, no. I'm very proud of American Pharaoh. I'm disappointed for the fans. I'm heart broken, but there is -- I would not trade a minute of the pleasure that he gave me, my family, and the sport. Not a second.
We had to do what we had to do because I believe this is the best thing for our game. The horse was 100 percent healthy, happy. I mean, his readings are insane. He's coming here, look what he did on Friday. He gave us zero inclination. Zero inclination.
So we need to examine and see what's going on and move from there. My gut feeling, as I told you, if this horse is 1 percent not the American Pharaoh that we cherish, show's over.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Zayat, I want to thank you for bringing him to Saratoga.
AHMED ZAYAT: I want Justin to say something.
Congratulations, well done.
JERRY CRAWFORD: Thank you for making it the race it was.
JUSTIN ZAYAT: I'm speechless. I'm proud of American Pharaoh. You saw the fans come out, how they're all chasing him through the paddock. The joy he brought to everyone.
He ran his race. We were the second best horse today. Keen Ice ran a hell of a race. He was chasing us the last couple of races, and he got us today.
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American Pharoah photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese/Joe Labozzetta