Three-Year-Old Results Enhance American Pharoah’s Credentials

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Ed DeRosa

August 1st, 2015

It feels funny to write that a Triple Crown champion had his credentials enhanced before even leaving his stall this weekend, but when horses you beat in Grade 1 races come back to win graded stakes in your absence that’s what happens.

A pair of Grade 2 races today—the $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer and $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga—featured a mix of horses American Pharoah had defeated and interesting “newcomers” who possibly could have made enough noise beckoning the champion for his connections to consider a challenge.

But alas, the West Virginia Derby went to Arkansas Derby fourth-place finisher Madefromlucky, and the Jim Dandy went to Frontrunner Stakes third-place finisher Texas Red (who also won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile). Frosted, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont Stakes behind American Pharoah, was second in the Jim Dandy.

This begs the question, has the Travers become a case of "nothing left to prove?"

American Pharoah’s dominance of his division is reminiscent of 2009-2010 when Horses of the Year Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta not only won all the major races in their divisions but also defeated horses who went on to win the remaining major races.

What American Pharoah’s opponents have gone on to do will be especially germane following the Haskell Stakes on Sunday at Monmouth Park because the mostly East Coast-based media will no doubt want the horse to run in the Travers against the aforementioned Texas Red and Frosted (and maybe Madefromlucky?), but have the results of the past ten months  really left any doubt as to who the best horse is?

Of course, that also makes the race like the Pennsylvania Derby unappealing from a fan perspective as well, so where does that leave us?

We know American Pharoah’s season (and likely career) will end in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31 at Keeneland Race Course, and we know his Triple Crown curtain call will begin with the Haskell. In between those two races he’ll either race one or two more times.

If it’s just once then the Lukas Classic on September 26 at Churchill Downs is the most likely spot in my opinion. It gives him a start against older horses ahead of the Breeders’ Cup and offers ideal spacing of eight weeks off his two-month layoff and five weeks into the Breeders’ Cup. The Pennsylvania Derby would be my second choice under the one-race-before-the-Breeders’-Cup scenario.

If it’s two races, then obviously the Travers Stakes is in the mix, but why not the Pacific Classic? Yeah, it’s “only” three weeks after the Haskell, but American Pharoah has already won off two- and three-week layoffs when coming off a layoff, and Racing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has said American Pharoah will return to Del Mar following the Haskell. If the Travers were really a possibility then wouldn’t Churchill make more sense as layover location?

The Rachel Alexandra-route of the Haskell-Woodward is a sleeper as well. That’s five weeks and then would open up races like the aforementioned Lukas Classic or the Awesome Again/Jockey Club Gold Cup before the Breeders’ Cup.

Of course, first thing is first: He has to take care of business in front of what will be a record crowd on the Jersey Shore Sunday at Monmouth Park. For FREE Ultimate Past Performances of the $1.75-million Hasekll Stakes, CLICK HERE.