SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — No worries, so far. American Pharoah seems to love Saratoga Race Course.
After the Triple Crown winner’s first gallop around the historic track Thursday, the striking bay colt was declared “super good and very happy,” by assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes.
“He went over the track very well,” said Barnes, trainer Bob Baffert’s right-hand man who travels with American Pharoah. “He settles in very easily.”
American Pharoah, with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez aboard, glided around the track without issue as he prepares for Saturday’s Travers Stakes. The first Triple Crown winner in 37 years is the 1-5 favorite in a field of 10 3-year-olds going 1 ¼ miles.
“He went great,” a smiling Alvarez said. “We’re very happy with what we saw.”
With 62-year-old Baffert set to arrive from California later Thursday, Barnes got in touch with the trainer after American Pharoah returned to his barn on the backstretch.
“Bob’s still on California time, but I texted him immediately,” Barnes said. “I try not to call him because if he gets a call he tends to think something’s wrong.”
American Pharoah walked onto the track about 6:40 a.m., with dozens of photographers, TV cameras and fans on hand to check out the champ.
A few hours later, about 11:15 a.m., American Pharoah was led into the paddock to get used to the saddling area. When word spread, fans began lining the white fence around the paddock and the path through the crowd that horses enter and leave. The colt actually stopped several times, posing for pictures.
“Nothing bothers him,” said one fan as American Pharoah walked along the horse path.
“He’s so beautiful,” said another.
“I can’t believe I got to see American Pharoah,'” added another.
It’s been quite a week for racing’s biggest draw. He had his final workout Sunday at Del Mar in California, jogged Tuesday and was flown cross-country Wednesday on “Air Horse One” before boarding a horse van and receiving a police escort from the Albany, New York, airport to Saratoga.
American Pharoah — and other Travers horses — is scheduled for a 1 1/2- to 1 5/8-mile gallop Friday between 8:45 a.m. to 9 a.m.
A winner of eight straight races — seven of them Grade 1 stakes — since a career-opening loss, American Pharoah is attempting to become only the second of the 12 Triple Crown winners to go on and take the Travers. Whirlaway did it in 1941.
American Pharoah, with Victor Espinoza riding, will break from the No. 2 post.
After easily winning the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2 in his first race since sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah may have a tougher time in the Travers.
Frosted, with Joel Rosario aboard, is the 6-1 second betting choice. The gray colt trained by Kiaran McLaughlin is 0 for 2 against American Pharoah, running fourth in the Derby and second in the Belmont. In his last start, Frosted was a close second in the Jim Dandy on Aug. 1 at the Spa behind Texas Red, the Travers’ third choice at 8-1.
And there’s also Keen Ice at 12-1. The colt is 0 for 3 against American Pharoah — seventh in the Derby, third in the Belmont and second in the Haskell.
Keen Ice trainer Dale Romans is optimistic.
“He’s one of the few horses I’ve had that I think have improved every day of training of his life,” said Romans. “He’s getting better and better. We’re getting a little bit closer every time, maybe eventually we’ll catch him.”
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