NEW YORK (WFAN) — It took 37 years to happen, so forgive Bob Baffert if he needs more than a few days to let it sink in.
Speaking to WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Tuesday, the legendary trainer expressed genuine shock over American Pharoah’s historic run to the Triple Crown, three days after his colt stormed to a 5 1/2-length win at the Belmont Stakes.
“It’s been a really amazing ride and I still can’t believe he did it,” Baffert said. “Every time I had gone up there we would get beat and so when you get beat the phone goes silent, the world ends and it’s back to the grind. It has been just non-stop people wanting to feel what I’m feeling and how the horse is.
“It’s one of those things where I probably wasn’t really prepared for it mentally,” Baffert added. “I always had that doubt that he might not get there, because all the great horses that were just as good as him that just failed or something happened, and they couldn’t close the deal.”
American Pharoah shot out to the lead at the start and was never really challenged on his way to becoming just the 12th Triple Crown winner in history and first since Affirmed in 1978.
It was a win that captured the hearts of sports fans everywhere. The victory put a stamp on Baffert’s reputation as the sport’s premier trainer. He has now won the Belmont twice, in addition to his four Kentucky Derby victories and six Preakness Stakes wins.
But as far as American Pharoah’s place in history is concerned, a humbled Baffert told Francesa, “You could have trained this horse. That’s how good he is.”
“I’m still in awe of the horse because he did that so easily,” Baffert added. “At the top of the stretch when (jockey) Victor (Espinoza) was just sitting on him and he’d already gone a mile and a quarter and he had all that power underneath him and I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to do it.’ It was like I was in a trance as he was coming down the track. I was listening to the crowd noise … the thundering was so loud.”
American Pharoah’s owner Ahmed Zayat has said his horse will continue to race at least through the end of the year, as long as he remains healthy. Zayat sold the breeding rights for an undisclosed amount to Coolmore Ashford Stud near Versailles, Kentucky, but has made it clear as long as the horse remains active he still calls the shots.
“He came out of (the Belmont) really well. It really wasn’t that hard on him. He didn’t have to run hard early or run fast early. All he did was run that last quarter of a mile. That’s why he came home pretty fast,” Baffert said.
Baffert told Francesa that American Pharoah is expected to “just keep training” and will likely appear either in Saratoga or Monmouth this summer leading into the Breeders’ Cup Classic in Kentucky in October, where Bovada LV has already installed the colt as a 3-to-2 favorite.
Among the races under consideration this summer are the Jim Dandy at Saratoga in upstate New York on Aug. 1; the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in New Jersey on Aug. 2; the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 22 and the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 29.
To hear Baffert’s revealing interview with Francesa in its entirety, please click on the audio link below.