SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — And now, it’s on to the Spa for the Triple Crown winner.
With post-position formalities out of the way, American Pharoah will be led onto a plane Wednesday morning for the cross-country trip to Saratoga Race Course and Saturday’s Travers Stakes.
American Pharoah was made the overwhelming 1-5 favorite in a 10-horse field and drew the No 2 post on Tuesday night.
“Once the draw is over, we just think about having everything going smooth into the race,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “The horse is doing well; that’s more important than what hole he drew.”
If American Pharoah starts, the Travers purse increases $350,000 to $1.6 million, with the winner earning $850,000.
But it won’t be easy at the aptly nicknamed “Graveyard of Champions.”
American Pharoah will try to become only the second Triple Crown winner to go on to win the prestigious Travers. Whirlaway won the 1941 Travers after sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
“We’re just worried about getting him there and making sure he’s sharp,” Baffert said. “As long as he’s sharp and ready to roll then what happens, happens.”
Frosted was made the second choice at 6-1, and Texas Red the third choice at 8-1. Frosted ran fourth in the Derby, second in the Belmont and second in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Aug. 1. Texas Red won the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Jim Dandy.
American Pharoah has won eight straight races after a career-opening loss and earned more than $5.6 million. The 3-year-old bay son of Pioneerof the Nile will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, competing in his first Travers.
“We’re excited. It’s a good field. It’s pretty solid,” Baffert said. “It would be more like running in the Kentucky Derby. I feel like it will be the same kind of excitement with the people and the horses and everything.”
The field from the rail out is Upstart (15-1), American Pharoah (1-5), Mid Ocean (50-1), Texas Red (8-1), Frammento (30), Frosted (6-1), Keen Ice (12-1), Tale of Verve (30-1), King of New York (50-1) and Smart Transition (20-1).
“Everything has to go smooth for him,” Baffert said. “We don’t take anything for granted. We’re coming in there ready.”
American Pharoah, owned by Ahmed Zayat, would become the fourth of the 12 Triple Crown winners to run in the Travers. In 1930, Jim Dandy upset Gallant Fox at odds of 100-1, Whirlaway won in ’41 and Affirmed finished first in 1978 but was disqualified to second with rival Alydar declared the winner.
John Shirreffs, who trained the great Zenyatta, will send out Smart Transition with John Velazquez aboard trying to pull a huge upset.
“All I can say is, ‘Jim Dandy.’ Gallant Fox, right?” he asked. “He came here as a Triple Crown winner and there was a horse named Jim Dandy that beat him. You know what? I think it’s more than that. It’s going to be a great day for Saratoga.”
American Pharoah returned to the races earlier this month, easily winning the Haskell Invitational in New Jersey on Aug. 1. American Pharoah has already defeated six of his Travers rivals, including Keen Ice three times.
A sellout crowd of 50,000 will jam the Spa to catch a look at the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown. For those counting, it has been 74 years since Whirlaway’s Travers win.
“I feel like I’m bringing the Beatles to town,” Baffert said earlier Tuesday on a national conference call. Baffert is scheduled to arrive in Saratoga on Thursday.
Keen Ice, trained by Dale Romans, finished seventh in the Derby, third in the Belmont and second in the Haskell. Javier Castellano replaces Kent Desormeaux aboard the colt.
“He’s getting better and better,” Romans said. “We’re getting a little bit closer every time, maybe eventually we’ll catch him.”
American Pharoah had a final tuneup for the Travers on Sunday, working seven furlongs in 1:23.20 at his home base at Del Mar.
“Saratoga here we come!” Zayat said following the workout.
It’s still unclear if another race is in the works before American Pharoah’s finale in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. After that race, he will be retired to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud.
American Pharoah is scheduled to gallop on Thursday and Friday mornings at Saratoga. The Friday workout is open to the public.
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