Rewriting history has become a habit for Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah, and the three-year-old colt already has his sights set on another record-busting feat.
Following a blistering workout, American Pharoah’s connections announced he will next run Saturday’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in New York, hoping to be the first Triple Crown champion to win the race in more than 70 years.
With roughly 2,000 fans in attendance, the Pioneer of the Nile colt forged a 1:23.20 time over seven furlongs at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, California, Sunday. It led owner Ahmed Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert to confirm American Pharoah’s participation at the Travers.
"He's showing zero wear and tear. In fact, he's more mature, even getting better," Zayat said. "He did it so easy the exercise rider couldn't even pull him up. Bob needed to see that."
The 1 1/4-mile dirt race will be American Pharoah’s second since overpowering the rest of the field with a 5 1/2-lengths victory at the Belmont in June.
After becoming the first thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, in the very short five-week span, American Pharoah earned a near two-month rest before fortifying his claim as horse racing’s biggest sensation in decades with a 2 1/4-length victory at the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, on Aug. 2.
The Haskell’s margin of victory doesn’t suggest a dominate performance, but jockey Victor Espinoza said afterwards that his strategy was to hold American Pharoah back out of the gate, which he did well into the back stretch prior to making his move around Competitive Edge on the final turn for the $1.75 million purse. It was a far cry from the wire-to-wire run at the Belmont, during which no other contender made his way into American Pharoah’s jet wash over the last quarter-mile.
But that only leaves more in American Pharoah’s tank as he eyes a race no other Triple Crown winner has won since 1941. According to the New York Post, not since Whirlaway 74 years ago has a Triple Crown horse also claimed the Travers, and American Pharoah will be only the fourth to try.
There is of course some extra monetary incentive for Zayat, with the Travers upping its usual $1.25 million purse to $1.6 million after American Pharoah's inclusion was confirmed. The New York Racing Association, much like it did at Belmont Park, capped the Travers attendance to 50,000 as American Pharoah contends for his ninth straight victory.
"This is a great day for racing fans in Saratoga, across the State of New York and throughout our nation" NYRA’s Chief Executive Officer and President Christopher Kay said in a statement.