Triple Crown Winner's Trainer Intrigued By 'Tough' And 'Demanding' Racetrack

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Bob Baffert took a side trip to Saratoga Race Course on Monday before the start of the horse sales down the road.

The trainer of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah said he was on a “recon'” mission just in case his horse runs next in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 29.

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After arriving from California, Baffert checked out trainer John Terranova’s barn, where his horses usually stay when they run at the Spa.

“We’re trying to make it, but he’s going to have to really convince me,” Baffert said. “I have to be all in and feel really confident, because if he comes here I know he’s going to have to run hard. It’s a tough, demanding racetrack, but he’s handled everything thrown at him so far.”

In his first start since becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah easily won the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on Aug. 2.

Owner Ahmed Zayat and Baffert have not decided on American Pharoah’s next start, but the 3-year-old colt is scheduled for a timed workout on Sunday at Del Mar in California. The Travers is 13 days later.

Other possible races for American Pharoah include the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 19 and Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 26.

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If all goes according to plan, American Pharoah would run his final race in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, on Oct. 31. He’d then be retired to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud.

If American Pharoah runs in the Travers, the purse would be raised $350,000 to $1.6 million. New York racing officials also said Travers Day attendance is capped at 50,000.

Baffert does not have a great Travers history. While he’s won the Haskell a record seven times, he’s 1 for 5 in the Travers — he won it with Point Given in 2001. Last year, eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern ran last.

“I’ve been pressured into bringing other horses here and they didn’t do so well, but this horse is different,” Baffert said. “Point Given was the only one that I brought in for the Travers that had a chance to win; the other ones, I was just trying to make something happen.”

For now, Baffert will enjoy the sale. After all, American Pharoah is a graduate of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings sale. He sold for $300,000 in 2013.

“I had to come over and see if maybe there’s another American Pharoah in here that everybody missed last time,” Baffert said. “He was right there and everybody looked at him and walked away from him. All the geniuses missed him.”

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