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Refreshed Pharoah primed for Breeders’ Cup bid – Baffert partnership with the charismatic colt coming to an end

Victor Espinoza, riding atop American Pharoah, reacts after winning the 48th William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug 2, 2015 in Monmouth, New Jersey (AFP)
Victor Espinoza, riding atop American Pharoah, reacts after winning the 48th William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug 2, 2015 in Monmouth, New Jersey (AFP)

ARCADIA, United States, Oct 21, (AFP): Bob Baffert’s time with American Pharoah is winding down, but the trainer believes US racing’s first Triple Crown hero in 37 years is primed for a shot at Breeders’ Cup glory. The $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, on Oct 31 will be the three-year-old’s last race.

On Tuesday at Santa Anita Park he didn’t disappoint in his last significant workout before he ships east, working six furlongs in 1min 10.80sec. Baffert liked what he saw, but still sounded a bit wistful at the prospect of his partnership with the charismatic colt coming to an end.

“This was the last serious drill of his life,” said Baffert, who timed American Pharoah galloping out seven furlongs on his watch in 1:23.20 and a mile in a tidy 1:37. “It’s sort of sad in a way to think that’s the last time we get to see him work like that. “Just to watch him breeze, sometimes I get a bit excited, the way he does things so easily.

“He looked fantastic today and I really feel good about the way he’s coming into this race.” Since becoming the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah extended his winning streak to eight races with a win in the Haskell Invitational in August, before finishing runner up to Keen Ice in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in September.

Since then, Baffert said, racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner had benefitted from some well-earned time off. “He needed every bit of that 60 days,” said Baffert, who has no qualms about taking American Pharoah into the Breeders’ Cup Classic off such a long racing layoff. “If you have a horse like him that gets a lot out of his works you can do it,” Baffert said.

American Pharoah is slated to become the first Triple Crown winner to race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where super mare Beholder is among the world’s top horses expected to take him on in the main event of the two-day, 13-race, $26 million flat racing extravaganza. He could have been retired immediately after sealing his place in racing lore at the Belmont.

Owner Ahmed Zayat has already sold the colt’s breeding rights to Ireland’s Coolmore Stud in a deal thought to be worth more than $20 million. Despite the defeat at Saratoga, Baffert sees no downside to giving American Pharoah a chance to add to his racing legacy — even if the spotlight on the superstar makes his own life more stressful.

“The thing that makes American Pharoah so unique is that I’ve never had a horse that sustained his form from early spring until fall,” Baffert said. “It’s very rare you see a horse like that. “He’s been on so many planes, shipped so many times, for him to still be at the top of his game, it’s pretty impressive.”

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