Homeracing

Where to after the Haskell for American Pharoah

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D.S. Williamson

July 7th, 2015

Trainer Bob Baffert showed his hand with American Pharoah last week by letting it be known that the Triple Crown winner will next run in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 2. It makes absolute sense. Baffert has won the Haskell Invitational 7 times including winning with Point Given in 2001, War Emblem in 2002, and Roman Ruler in 2005 and he's won 4 out of the last 5 runnings with Lookin At Lucky in 2010, Coil in 2011, Paynter in 2012 and Bayern last year.

Why not send American Pharoah to a $1 million dollar race that Baffert has won with ease in the past?

The bigger question now is if Baffert and Zayat will go for the Quintiple Crown Sweep. American Pharoah has a shot at winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont, the Haskell and the Travers. No horse has ever done that. The only horse that has been close is Point Given in 2001 who failed to win the Kentucky Derby but took home the other 4 races, including the 2001 Travers Stakes. But, there is a reason that Baffert might decide to skip the Mid-Summer Derby with his Triple Crown winner. Let's take a deeper look into why that's the case as well as a couple of other possible prep races for American Pharoah before the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Travers Stakes, Saratoga, NY

Pros: Winning the Quintiple Crown would put American Pharoah on a different stratosphere than any other 3-year-old that has won the Triple Crown. No other Triple Crown winner has swept the Top 5 Three-Year-Old Races of the Year in the United States. If Pharoah were to do this, that would add an extra layer of greatness for future three-year-olds to shoot for if they were to win the Triple Crown.

Cons: For all of Baffert's ability at training three-year-olds, he has only won the Travers Stakes once, with Point Given in 2001. What if American Pharoah were to lose the Travers Stakes?  Could that affect his legacy in any way?

Pacific Classic, Del Mar, CA

Pros:  Del Mar returns to dirt this summer. American Pharoah should relish the racetrack and it's impressive when a three-year-old, even a Triple Crown winning three-year-old, can beat older horses. Plus, American Pharoah's, and Bob Baffert's, home base is in Southern California. It would be awesome for Pharoah to run in front of his most adoring fans.

Cons:  The handicap division in Southern California appears to be getting better. Catch a Flight is turning into a monster for trainer Richard Mandella while Moreno could easily bounce back from his eighth place finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Plus, Baffert trainee Hoppertunity ran second in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Bob might be pointing Hoppertunity towards the P.Classic.

Woodward Stakes, Saratoga, NY

Pros:  There really isn't a pro to putting American Pharoah in the Sept. 5 Woodward Stakes.

Cons: Lots of cons here. First, the race is at Saratoga, where Baffert has already proven to have trouble winning races. Second, if Baffert's going to have American Pharoah run against older rivals earlier than the BC Classic, why not just put him in the P.Classic instead of a race like the Woodward?  Finally, the Travers is only a week before the Woodward. That's the only race that Baffert would enter American Pharoah into that they run at Saratoga.

Jockey Club Gold Cup, Belmont, NY

Pros: Usually run in late September, the Jockey Club Gold Cup makes some sense. It's a shorter flight from New York to Keeneland, the site of the Breeders' Cup this year, and the race is run at Belmont Park. American Pharoah has no problem gliding over Big Sandy. Baffert could use the Jockey Club Gold Cup as either a prep after the Haskell Invitational or a third prep for the BC Classic after the Travers.

Cons: The Jockey Club Gold Cup is in New York. I've got a funny feeling that Baffert and the Zayats will want American Pharoah to run at least once in Southern California before he's retired, which brings me to the most likely prep race for American Pharoah's Classic attempt...

Awesome Again Stakes, Santa Anita, CA

Pro: Formerly called the Goodwood Handicap, this is the race at Santa Anita Park that Mucho Macho Man prepped in and won for his 2013 Breeders Cup Classic victory. American Pharoah would be able to run in front of his California fans one last time and Baffert could get into his usual Santa Anita routine up until the race.

Cons: There is one con with running American Pharoah in the Awesome Again Stakes. The only con is that by that time, Mandella's Catch a Flight, or Baffert's own Hoppertunity, or both might be 2 of the top handicap horses in the country. American Pharoah could face his toughest competition yet if he were to run in the Goodwood.

Wherever American's 12th Triple Crown winner lands, horse racing fans can expect him to put forth his best effort. If Baffert and Zayat play their cards right, and there's no reason to believe that they won't, American Pharoah will not only jump into the discussion regarding the best Triple Crown horse of all time, but he also will jump into the discussion regarding the best thoroughbred race horse of all time.

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