Amer­i­can Pharoah won’t just stop and cash in

Triple Crown win­ner is likely to race twice more, maybe once at Del Mar.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - BILL DWYRE

EL­MONT, N.Y. — For so long, horse rac­ing has been wait­ing to ex­hale.

Then, with a whoosh of a stretch run, there was Amer­i­can Pharoah, win­ning the Bel­mont, the Triple Crown and the hearts of mil­lions.

What this ac­tu­ally means to the sport is one of those unan­swer­able ques­tions, at least in the short term.

Do not ex­pect Thurs­day af­ter­noon at­ten­dance at Santa Anita to sud­denly be in five fig­ures. But do ex­pect TV rat­ings and on­track at­ten­dance for big races to get a boost across the coun­try. Also ex­pect more peo­ple who were on the fence about in­vest­ing in the sport to do so now. The spoils of victory rep­re­sented by Amer­i­can Pharoah’s run to glory Satur­day are just too tempt­ing.

The fall­out from big­mo­ment, big-event sports ma­nia is hard to mea­sure.

Will golf con­tinue to suf­fer with ev­ery drive Tiger Woods hits onto a nearby free­way? Will boxing need a long re­sus­ci­ta­tion pe­riod af­ter leav­ing so many empty wal­lets and empty feel­ings with the May­weather-Pac­quiao bomb?

The post-race dia­logue be­gan early Sun­day morn­ing, in a big room called the Gar­den Ter­race in­side the Bel­mont Grand­stands. It be­gan with a cer­e­mo­nial

un­veil­ing of a ban­ner, to be added to 11 oth­ers.

They pulled a cord and the turquoise-and-gold silks of Ahmed Zayat’s rac­ing op­er­a­tion rolled down from the ceil­ing, lining up per­fectly at the end of the row. At the far end were the silks of Sir Bar­ton, who started all this in 1919 and didn’t even know what he was start­ing. Right next to the colors of Amer­i­can Pharoah were those of Af­firmed, who had waited 37 years for com­pany on his left.

It had been only 141⁄ hours since the cur­rent most-fa­mous horse in cap­tiv­ity had raced into his­tory. Yet, the na­ture of our fast­mov­ing world dic­tated the im­me­di­ate line of ques­tion­ing. What’s next? Owner Zayat ad­dressed that, and ob­vi­ously had given it much thought. He is a busi­ness­man. A Triple Crown win­ner turns this into big busi­ness. He has al­ready sold the breed­ing rights, and those are likely to be worth a solid six fig­ures per mat­ing.

So why would any­body even take a chance on this in­vest­ment by run­ning Amer­i­can Pharoah again and risk­ing in­jury? In thor­ough­bred rac­ing, when a leg frac­tures, pri­vate jets be­come seats in coach.

“We are com­mit­ted to run­ning him at least un­til the end of his 3-year-old cam­paign,” Zayat said.

“I have talked to my fam­ily about this. We are not think­ing at all about money, or about value. It is all about the fans. We owe it to the sport to cam­paign him prop­erly, and I make a pledge to rac­ing that we will.”

That was com­mend­able rhetoric. The re­al­ity is that Amer­i­can Pharoah is likely, at best, to be raced twice more be­fore the end of the year. One of those races is ob­vi­ous — the Oct. 31 Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic in Lex­ing­ton, Ky.

Af­ter that, rac­ing fans will have to revel in re­ports about the progress of his ba­bies.

Trainer Bob Baf­fert, who said Amer­i­can Pharoah came out of his mile-and­half race ap­pear­ing no worse for wear — “He looked like I could run him back in three weeks,” Baf­fert said — talked about Eastern races such as the Haskell at Mon­mouth Park and the Jim Dandy at Saratoga. He also teased West Coast in­ter­ests.

“We have a nice lit­tle race at Del Mar,” Baf­fert said, re­fer­ring to the Pa­cific Clas­sic.

The own­ers of Zeny­atta, Ann and Jerry Moss, set the bar high in this re­gard and de­serve the on­go­ing grat­i­tude they got from the in­dus­try when they con­tin­ued to bring her back to the races. But that’s a bit of ap­ples and or­anges. Six­fig­ure stud fees make it so.

Baf­fert, as is his na­ture, did his best Sun­day morn­ing to en­joy his mo­ment and keep it loose.

He said he was happy be­cause, “Now, Billy Turner has some­body to talk to.”

Turner, 75, is the stil­lac­tive trainer, who guided Seat­tle Slew to the 10th Triple Crown in 1973. Be­fore Satur­day, Turner was the only living trainer of a Triple Crown win­ner.

Baf­fert was mak­ing his fourth at­tempt at se­cur­ing a Triple Crown and he said that had he not got­ten it done this time, he might have re­acted badly.

“I might have taken a bat to the Triple Crown Tro­phy,” he said, clearly kid­ding. “They could send me a bill.”

He said it was the first time he had been to a big race with a big crowd and not got­ten heck­led.

“I was dis­ap­pointed,” he said, “and so was Bode [his 10-year-old son]. He kept ask­ing, where are the heck­lers?”

He also said, with­out in­di­cat­ing how much more he ex­pects Amer­i­can Pharoah to race, that the horse’s long-term fu­ture will be rosy.

“He will be out there in the pas­ture with all those fil­lies and mares,” Baf­fert said. “He’ll have a good life.”

Amer­i­can Pharoah, bred in Ken­tucky, has been shipped back to Baf­fert’s barn in Louisville at Churchill Downs for the mo­ment, but is likely to move even­tu­ally to Baf­fert’s main sta­bles at Santa Anita, where his trainer can keep a closer watch.

That gives Amer­i­can Pharoah enough Cal­i­for­nia brag­ging rights to point out that much high-level suc­cess in the sport has come from the Golden State in re­cent years. That would in­clude Zeny­atta, Cal­i­for­nia Chrome, Shared Be­lief and last year’s Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic win­ner, Bay­ern.

As­tute reader Mary Jane McKit­trick will be given the last word on this mat­ter.

“I’d ask if there is some­thing in the wa­ter,” she writes, “but of course, there is no wa­ter.”


Al Bello Getty Images

VIC­TOR ESPINOZA soaks in glory atop Amer­i­can Pharoah on Satur­day. The Triple Crown-win­ning horse is ex­pected to bring six-fig­ure stud fees.

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