Pharoah’s goal is still the Breeders’ Cup Classic
The boos at Monmouth Park were reserved for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
The cheers were echoed from Oceanport, where the Haskell Stakes became a tour de force for the 2015 Triple Crown champion, to the nearby beaches to praise the popular thoroughbred American Pharoah.
Against six others who came to get at least a small part of the $1.75 million purse, American Pharoah literally coasted to a win. It was the sweet-striding thoroughbred’s first race since he charmed the nation in winning the last leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes back on the first Saturday in June. Colored the same deep brown as a Hershey bar, American Pharoah’s success in the Haskell Stakes was about as popular as that creamy chocolate delight.
Hero worshipers, impressionable teens, lovers of horses and those wanting to see if the first Triple Crown champion in 37 years could lift his rising star into orbit all came. They all flooded in record numbers to Monmouth Park near the coast of the so-called Garden State. About 60,000 came to celebrate racing’s latest icon. It was a record crowd for the track.
The people got what they wanted to see. American Pharoah swept past the pace-setter as the seven-horse field pounded on toward the head of the stretch. Once on the lead, his jockey, Victor Espinosa, allowed him to coast to the finish line where the air was filled with cheering and the raised arms of victory.
It was a million dollar payday for the snappy thoroughbred. It was a sensational day for thoroughbred racing and a race track often overshadowed by regional tracks Saratoga, Belmont Park and Aqueduct.
An overpowering favorite that went off at odds of 1-to-9, American Pharoah paid only $2.20 for those who wagered $2 on him to win the race.
Many thousands of those winning tickets will never be cashed. They will be cached away to serve as mementos and souvenirs of the afternoon where those Pharoah Phanatics saw their thoroughbred hero win right in front of their eyes.
The triumph was expected.
But it was horse racing . . . and anything could have happened, especially since the athletic runner hadn’t raced for fully two months.
Now its off to a race where he will face similar three-year-olds. Trainer Bob Baffert has said he doesn’t want to face older horses next time.
A logical next-step is the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on the last Saturday in August or a stakes back in his home state of California at Santa Anita Race Course in August or September.
It’s planned that American Pharoah’s final race will come on Saturday, Oct. 31, at Keeneland in Kentucky in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Breeders’ Cup Classic would be against older horses, horses from around the world and some of the most accomplished thoroughbreds in training.
Keeneland is not a facility with a large seating capacity. It has never seen the interest and attention it would gather if America Pharoah comes to its bluegrass dignity without another loss.
Already general admission tickets are being priced at between $300 and $500 just for entry into the grounds on that afternoon of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Those flocking to Keeneland won’t be coming to taste the ballyhooed bourbon or to show off their tweed jackets and Oscar de la Renta dresses.
American Pharoah will be the drawing card.
And his magnetism is now more than any other thoroughbred since the great Secretariat.