Amer­i­can Pharoah re­turns to Santa Anita

Triple Crown win­ner is taken to Baf­fert’s barn, will be pa­raded at track this month.

Los Angeles Times - - BASEBALL - By Eric Sondheimer eric.sondheimer@latimes.com Twit­ter: LATSond­heimer

It was a Hol­ly­wood welcome for a true equine star.

There were f lash­ing lights, a po­lice es­cort, a he­li­copter pro­vid­ing live TV cov­er­age and close to 100 media and rac­ing in­sid­ers wait­ing to greet the van car­ry­ing Triple Crown win­ner Amer­i­can Pharoah as he re­turned to trainer Bob Baf­fert’s barn at Santa Anita on Thurs­day.

Un­der a cloud­less sky and with palm trees wav­ing in the dis­tance, the van came down the drive­way to the barn area, made a left turn and pulled up in front of Baf­fert’s sta­ble area. Amer­i­can Pharoah was the first horse led off the ramp and looked com­fort­able af­ter fly­ing in from Louisville, Ky., to LA/On­tario In­ter­na­tional Air­port and then tak­ing a 90-minute van ride to Arcadia.

“He was so easy and quiet the whole time,” said track of­fi­cial Alexis Garske, who made the trip on the van. “He’s a very happy horse.”

Baf­fert guided Amer­i­can Pharoah around the barn area a cou­ple of times as cam­eras clicked in rapid fash­ion. Then Amer­i­can Pharoah got a bath away from the cam­eras. His jockey, Vic­tor Espinoza, was there to greet him.

“I’m ex­cited to see him,” Espinoza said. “He’s been away for a long time, but it was a nice ride for him and I.”

Amer­i­can Pharoah is sched­uled to be pa­raded in front of fans June 27 be­tween races at Santa Anita. Baf­fert in­tends to train him for a still un­de­ter­mined next race, with the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic on Oct. 31 in Keeneland in Lex­ing­ton, Ky., the ul­ti­mate goal.

Keep­ing Amer­i­can Pharoah healthy and happy will be Baf­fert’s task. The colt is go­ing to get the VIP treat­ment, which means, “He’s prob­a­bly go­ing to get a few more car­rots,” Baf­fert said.

Baf­fert was jok­ing that his dog, Dale, an Aus­tralian shep­herd, is the “of­fi­cial guard dog” for Amer­i­can Pharoah. Track of­fi­cials say se­cu­rity around the Baf­fert barn will be tight­ened to pro­tect the 3-year-old, whose breed­ing rights are re­port­edly worth more than $20 mil­lion.

Baf­fert’s wife, Jill, was on crutches for the greet­ing af­ter hav­ing hip re­place­ment surgery. His son, Bode, wore an Amer­i­can Pharoah Tshirt.

Baf­fert con­tin­ues to en­joy the spotlight af­ter train­ing the first Triple Crown win­ner in 37 years.

“I get all the at­ten­tion, be­cause Amer­i­can Pharoah re­fuses to talk to the media,” he said.

Pho­tog raphs by Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

AMER­I­CAN PHAROAH is ready for his close-ups at Santa Anita af­ter f ly­ing in from Louisville, Ky. Rac­ing in Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic back in Ken­tucky is a big goal.

BOB BAF­FERT, Amer­i­can Pharoah’s trainer, signs au­to­graphs. Jockey Vic­tor Espinoza also was on hand.

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